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TWO YEARS WITH THE NATIVES 
IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 



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TWO YEARS WITH 

THE NATIVES IN THE 

WESTERN PACIFIC 



BY 

Dr. FELIX SPEISER 



WITH 40 ILLUSTRATIONS FROM PHOTOGRAPHS AND A MAP 






MILLS & BOON, LIMITED 

49 RUPERT STREET 
LONDON, W. 



Published rgij 




PREFACE 

This book is a collection of sketches written on lonely 
evenings during my voyage ; some of them have 
been published in daily papers, and were so kindly 
received by the public as to encourage me to issue 
them in book form. In order to retain the freshness 
of first impressions, the original form has been but 
slightly changed, and only so much ethnological 
detail has been added as will help to an understand- 
ing of native life. The book does not pretend to 
give a scientific description of the people of the New 
Hebrides ; that will appear later ; it is meant simply 
to transmit some of the indelible impressions the 
traveller was privileged to receive, — impressions both 
stern and sweet. The author will be amply repaid 
if he succeeds in giving the reader some slight idea 
of the charm and the terrors of the islands. He will 
be proud if his words can convey a vision of the in- 
comparable beauty and peacefulness of the glittering 
lagoon, and of the sublimity of the virgin forest ; if 
the reader can divine the charm of the native when 
gay and friendly, and his ferocity when gloomy and 
hostile. I have set down some of the joys and some 



vi PREFACE 

of the hardships of an explorer's life ; and I received 
so many kindnesses from all the white colonists I 
met, that one great object of my writing is to show 
my gratitude for their friendly help. 

First of all, I would mention His Britannic 
Majesty's Resident, Mr. Morton King, who followed 
my studies with the most sympathetic interest, was 
my most hospitable host, and, I may venture to say, 
my friend. I would name Mr. Colonna, Resident 
de France, Judge Alexander in Port Vila, and 
Captain Harrowell ; in Santo, Rev. Father Bochu, 
the Messrs. Thomas, Mr. Fysh, Mr. Clapcott ; in 
Malo, Mr. M. Wells and Mr. Jacquier ; in Vao, Rev. 
Father Jamond ; in Malekula, Rev. F. Paton, Rev. 
Jaffrays, Mr. Bird and Mr. Fleming ; in Ambrym, 
Rev. Dr. J. J. Bowie, Mr. Stevens, Mr. Decent ; in 
Pentecoste, Mr. Filmer ; in Aoba, Mr. Albert and 
Rev. Grunling ; in Tanna, Rev. Macmillan and Dr. 
Nicholson ; in Venua Lava, Mr. Choyer ; in Nitendi, 
Mr. Matthews. I am also indebted to the Anglican 
missionaries, especially Rev. H. N. Drummond, and to 
Captain Sinker of the steam yacht Southern Cross, to 
the supercargo and captains of the steamers of Burns, 
Philp & Company. There are many more who 
assisted me in various ways, often at the expense of 
their own comfort and interest, and not the least of 
the impressions I took home with me is, that nowhere 
can one find wider hospitality or friendlier helpfulness 



PREFACE vii 

than in these islands. This has helped me to forget 
so many things that do not impress the traveller 
favourably. 

If this book should come under the notice of any 
of these kind friends, the author would be proud to 
think that they remember him as pleasantly as he 
will recall all the friendship he received during his 
stay in the New Hebrides. 

Basle, April 1913. 



CONTENTS 



Introduction 
I. Noumea and Port Vila . 
II. Maei, Tongoa, Epi and Malekula 

III. The Second Channel— Life on a Plantation 

IV. Recruiting for Natives . 
V. Vao 

VI. Port Olry and a "Sing-Sing" . 
VII. Santo ..... 
VIII. Santo {continued)— V\gu\ks 
IX. Santo {continued)— Vigs 
X. Climbing Santo Peak 
XI. Ambrym .... 

XII. Pentecoste .... 

XIII. AOBA 

XIV. LoLOWAY — Malo — The Banks Islands 
XV. Tanna ..... 

XVI. The Santa Cruz Islands . 



19 

28 

35 
53 
85 
109 
136 
161 
171 

179 
191 
224 
241 
250 
270 
277 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

Shore in Graciosa Bay ..... Frontispiece 

FACING PAGE 



Women from the Reef Islands in Carlisle Bay . 

Native Taro Field on Maevo .... 

Man from Nitendi working the Loom 

A Cannibal before his Hut on Tanna 

Dancing Table near Port Sandwich . 

Old Man with Young Wife on Ambrym 

Front of a Chief's House on Venua Lava . 

Man from Nitendi ..... 

Cannibal from Big Nambas .... 
Woman on Nitendi ..... 

Canoe on Ureparapara ..... 

Dancing-Ground on Vao, with Ancestor Houses . 

Dancing-Ground on Vao ..... 

Woman from Tanna ..... 

House Fences on Vao ..... 

Gamal near Port Olry ..... 

Group of Large and Small Drums near Port Sandwich 

View along the Shore of a Coral Island . 

Interior of a Gamal on Venua Lava 

Wild Mountain Scenery in the District of the Pygmies 163 

Irrigated Taro Field on Santo . . . .179 



3 
10 

15 

22 

31 
40 

47 

54 
61 

70 

n 
85 
93 
99 
106 

"5 

129 
136 
147 



Xll 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



Dwelling of a Trader on Ambrym 

View from Hospital— Dip Point 

Women cooking on Ambrym 

Fern Trees on Ambrym . 

Group of Drums and Statues on Malekula 

Cooking-House on Aoba . 

Fire-Rubbing 

Tattooing on Aoba 

Dwelling-House on Gaua 

Ancestor-House on Gaua 

Drum Concert on Ureparapara 

Interior of a Gamal on Gaua 

Men from Tanna . 

Women from Tanna 

Canoe from Nitendi 

Man from Nitendi, Shooting 

Man from Nitendi, with Pearl Shell Nose 

Man from Tucopia 

Map .... 



FACING PAGE 

. 205 

. 218 

. 227 

. 241 

• 244 

• 255 
. 258 
. 261 
. 264 
. 270 
. 272 

• 277 
. 279 
. 284 
. 287 
. 291 



TWO YEARS WITH THE NATIVES 
IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 



INTRODUCTION 

Late in the sixteenth century the Spaniards made 
several voyages in search of a continent in the 
southern part of the great Pacific Ocean. Alvara 
Mendana de Neyra, starting in 1568 from the west 
coast of South America and following about the sixth 
degree southern latitude, found the Solomon Islands, 
which he took for parts of the desired continent. In 
1595 he undertook another voyage, keeping a more 
southerly course, and discovered the Queen Charlotte 
Islands ; the largest of these, Nitendi, he called Santa 
Cruz, and gave the fitting name of Graciosa Bay to 
the lovely cove in which he anchored. He tried to 
found a colony here, but failed. Mendana died in 
Santa Cruz, and his lieutenant, Pedro Vernandez de 
Quiros, led the expedition home. In Europe, Ouiros 
succeeded in interesting the Spanish king, Philip iii., 
in the idea of another voyage, so that in 1 603 he was 
able to set sail from Spain with three ships. Again 
he reached the Santa Cruz Islands, and sailing south- 
ward from there he landed in 1606 on a larger island, 



2 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

which he took for the desired Australian continent 
and called Tierra Australis del Espiritu Santo; the 
large bay he named San I ago and San Felipe, and 
his anchorage Vera Cruz. He stayed here some 
months and founded the city of New Jerusalem at 
the mouth of the river Jordan in the curve of the bay. 
Quiros claims to have made a few sailing trips thence, 
southward along the east coast of the island ; if he 
had pushed on far enough these cruises might easily 
have convinced him of the island-nature of the 
country. Perhaps he was aware of the truth ; cer- 
tainly the lovely descriptions he gave King Philip of 
the beauties of the new territory are so exaggerated 
that one may be pardoned for thinking him quite 
capable of dignifying an island by the name of con- 
tinent. 

The inevitable quarrels with the natives, and 
diseases and mutinies among his crew, forced him to 
abandon the colony and return home. His lieutenant, 
Luis Vaez de Torres, separated from him, discovered 
an passed the Torres Straits, a feat of excellent 
seamanship. Quiros returned to America. His 
high-flown descriptions of his discovery did not help 
him much, for the king simply ignored him, and his 
reports were buried in the archives. Quiros died 
in poverty and bitterness, and the only traces of his 
travels are the names Espiritu Santo, Bay San lago 
and San Felipe, and Jordan, in use to this day. 

No more explorers came to the islands till 1767, 
when a Frenchman, Carteret, touched at Santa Cruz, 
and 1768, when Bougainville landed in the northern 



INTRODUCTION 3 

New Hebrides, leaving his name to the treacherous 
channel between Malekula and Santo. 

But all these travellers were thrown into the shade 
by the immortal discoverer, James Cook, who, in the 
New Hebrides, as everywhere else, combined into 
solid scientific material all that his predecessors had 
left in a state of patchwork. Cook's first voyage 
made possible the observation of the transit of Venus 
from one of the islands of the Pacific. His second 
cruise, in search of the Australian continent, led him, 
coming from Tongoa, to the New Hebrides, of which 
he first sighted Maevo. 

Assisted by two brilliant scientists, Reinhold and 
George Forster, Cook investigated the archipelago 
with admirable exactitude, determined the position of 
the larger islands, made scientific collections of all 
sorts, and gave us the first reliable descriptions of 
the country and its people, so that the material he 
gathered is of the greatest value even at the present 
day. The group had formerly been known as the 
" Great Cyclades " ; Cook gave it its present name 
of "New Hebrides." 

Incited by Cook's surprising results the French 
Government sent La Perouse to the islands, but he 
was shipwrecked in 1788 on Vanikoro, the southern- 
most of the Santa Cruz group ; remains of this wreck 
were found on Vanikoro a few years ago. In 1789 
Bligh sighted the Banks Islands, and in 1793 
d'Entrecastaux, sent by Louis xvi. to the rescue of 
La Perouse, saw the islands of Santa Cruz. Since 
that time traffic with the islands became more fre- 



4 WITH NATIVES IN THE AVESTERN PACIFIC 

quent ; among many travellers we may mention the 
French captain, Dumont d'Urville, and the English- 
men, Belcher and Erskine, who, as well as Markham, 
have all left interesting accounts. 

But with Markham we enter that sad period 
which few islands of the Pacific escaped, in which the 
scum of the white race carried on their bloodstained 
trade in whaling products and sandalwood. They 
terrorized the natives shamelessly, and when these, 
naturally enough, often resorted to cruel modes of 
defence, they retaliated with deeds still more frightful, 
and the bad reputation they themselves made for the 
natives served them as a welcome excuse for a system 
of extermination. The horrors of slave-trade were 
added to piracy, so that in a few decades the native 
race of the New Hebrides and Banks Islands was so 
weakened that in many places to-day its preservation 
seems hopeless. 

Thus, for the financial advantage of the worst of 
whites, and from indolence and short-sighted national 
rivalry, a race was sacrificed which in every respect 
would be worth preserving, and it is a shameful fact 
that even to-day such atrocities are not impossible 
and very little is done to save the islanders from 
destruction. 

The only factor opposing these conditions was 
the Mission, which obtained a foothold in the islands 
under Bishop John Williams. He was killed in 
1839 by the natives of Erromanga, but the Protestant 
missionaries, especially the Presbyterians, would not 
be repulsed, and slowly advanced northward, in spite 



INTRODUCTION 5 

of many losses. To-day the Presbyterian mission 
occupies all the New Hebrides, with the exception of 
Pentecote, Aoba and Maevo. To the north lies the 
field of the Anglican mission, extending up to the 
Solomon Islands. 

In 1848 Roman Catholic missionaries settled in 
Aneityum, but soon gave up the station ; in 18S7 they 
returned and spread all over the archipelago, with the 
exception of the southern islands and the Banks group. 

Of late years several representatives of free 
Protestant sects have come out, but, as a rule, these 
settle only where they can combine a profitable trade 
with their mission work. 

Owing to energetic agitation on the part of the 
Anglican and Presbyterian Churches, especially of 
Bishop Patteson and the Rev. J. G. Paton, men-of-war 
were ordered to the islands on police duty, so as to 
watch the labour-trade. They could not suppress kid- 
napping entirely, and the transportation of the natives 
to Queensland continued until within the last ten 
years, when it was suppressed by the Australian 
Government, so that to-day the natives are at least 
not taken away from their own islands, except those 
recruited by the French for New Caledonia. 

Unhappily, England and France could not agree 
as to who should annex the New Hebrides. Violent 
agitation in both camps resulted in neither power 
being willing to leave the islands to the other, as 
numerical superiority on the French side was counter- 
balanced by the absolute economical dependence of 
the colonists upon Australia. England put the 



6 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

group under the jurisdiction of the *' Western Pacific," 
with a high commissioner ; France retorted by the 
so-called purchase of all useful land by the " Soci^t^ 
Fran9aise des Nouvelles Hebrides," a private company, 
which spent great sums on the islands in a short time. 
Several propositions of exchange failed to suit either 
of the powers, but both feared the interference of a 
third, and conditions in the islands called urgently 
for a' government ; so, in 1887, a dual control was 
established, each power furnishing a warship and a 
naval commissioner, who were to unite in keeping 
order. This was the beginning of the present Condo- 
minium, which was signed in 1906 and proclaimed in 
1908 in Port Vila; quite a unique form of govern- 
ment and at the same time a most interesting experi- 
ment in international administration. 

The Condominium puts every Englishman or 
Frenchman under the laws of his own nation, as 
represented by its officials ; so that these two 
nationalities live as they would in any colony of 
their own, while all others have to take their choice 
between these two. 

Besides the national laws, the Condominium has 
a few ordinances to regulate the intercourse between 
the two nations, the sale of liquor and arms to natives, 
recruiting and treatment of labourers, etc. As the 
highest instance in the islands and as a supreme 
tribunal, an international court of six members has 
been appointed : two Spanish, two Dutch, one English 
and one French. Thus the higher officials of the 
Condominium are : 



INTRODUCTION 7 

One English and one French resident commissioner, 

One Spanish president of the Court, 

One English and one French judge, 

One Dutch registrar, 

One Spanish prosecuting attorney, 

One Dutch native advocate, 

One English and one French police commissioner. 
The Santa Cruz Islands were annexed by England 
in 1898 and belong to the jurisdiction of the Solomon 
Islands. 

Geography 

The New Hebrides lie between 165° and 170° 
east longitude, and reach from 13° to 20° south lati- 
tude. The Santa Cruz Islands lie 116° east and 11° 
south. 

The New Hebrides and Banks Islands consist of 
thirteen larger islands and a great number of islets and 
rocks, covering an area of about 15,900 km. The 
largest island is Espiritu Santo, about 107 x 57 km., 
with 4900 km. surface. They are divided into the 
Torres group, the Banks Islands, the Central and the 
Southern New Hebrides. The Banks and Torres 
Islands and the Southern New Hebrides are com- 
posed of a number of isolated, scattered islands, while 
the Central group forms a chain, which divides at Epi 
into an eastern and a western branch, and encloses a 
stretch of sea, hemming it in on all sides except the 
north. On the coast of this inland sea, especially on 
the western islands, large coral formations have grown, 
changing what was originally narrow mountain chains, 



8 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

running north and south, to larger islands. Indeed, 
most of them seem to consist of a volcanic nucleus, 
on which lie great coral banks, often 200 m. high ; 
these usually drop in five steep steps to the sea, and 
then merge into the living coral-reef in the water. 
Most of the islands, therefore, appear as typical table- 
islands, out of which, in the largest ones, rise the 
rounded tops of the volcanic stones. They are all 
very mountainous ; the highest point is Santo Peak, 
1500 m. high. 

The tides cause very nasty tide-rips in the narrow 
channels between the islands of the Central group ; 
but inside, the sea is fairly good, and the reefs offer 
plenty of anchorage for small craft. Much less safe 
are the open archipelagoes of the Banks and Torres 
Islands and of the Southern New Hebrides, where 
the swell of the open ocean is unbroken by any land 
and harbours are scarce. 

There are three active volcanoes on the New 
Hebrides — the mighty double crater on Ambrym, 
the steep cone of Lopevi, and the volcano of Tanna. 
There is a half-extinct volcano on Venua Lava, and 
many other islands show distinct traces of former 
volcanic activity, such as Meralava and Ureparapara, 
one side of which has broken down, so that now there 
is a smooth bay where once the lava boiled. 

Rivers are found only on the larger islands, where 
there are volcanic rocks. In the coral rocks the rain- 
water oozes rapidly away, so that fresh-water springs 
are not frequently found, in spite of very considerable 
rainfall. 



INTRODUCTION 9 

Climate 

The climate is not hot and very equable. The 
average temperature in Efate in 1910 was 24-335° C. ; 
the hottest month was February, with an average of 
27-295°, the coolest, July with 11-9° C. The lowest 
absolute temperature was 1 1 -9° C. in August, and 
the highest 35-6° C. in March. The average yearly 
variation, therefore, was 5-48°, and the absolute 
difference 2yj°. 

The rainfall is very heavy. In December the 
maximum, 564 mm., was reached, and in June the 
minimum, 22 mm. The total rainfall was 3*012 mm., 
giving a daily average of 8-3 mm. 

These fiorures, taken from a table in the Neo- 
Hebridais, show that the year is divided into a cool, 
dry season and a hot, damp one. From May to 
October one enjoys agreeable summer days, bright 
and cool, with a predominant south-east trade-wind, 
that rises and falls with the sun and creates a fairly 
salubrious climate. From November to April the 
atmosphere is heavy and damp, and one squall follows 
another. Often there is no wind, or the wind changes 
quickly and comes in heavy gusts from the north- 
west. This season is the time for cyclones, which 
occur at least once a year ; happily, their centre rarely 
touches the islands, as they lie somewhat out of the 
regular cyclone track. 

A similar climate, with but slightly higher tem- 
perature, prevails on the Santa Cruz Islands. 



10 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

Flora and Fauna 

The vegetation of the New Hebrides is luxurious 
enough to make all later visitors share Quiros' 
amazement. The possibilities for the planter are 
nearly inexhaustible, and the greatest difficulty is 
that of keeping the plantations from the constant 
encroachments of the forest. Yet the flora is poorer 
in forms than that of Asiatic regions, and in the 
southern islands it is said to be much like that of 
New Caledonia. 

As a rule, thick forest covers the islands ; only 
rarely we find areas covered with reed-grass. On 
Erromanga these are more frequent. 

In the Santa Cruz Islands the flora seems richer 
than in the New Hebrides. 

Still more simple than the flora is the fauna. Of 
mammals there are only the pig, dog, a flying-fox 
and the rat, of which the first two have probably been 
imported by the natives. There are but few birds, 
reptiles and amphibies, but the few species there are 
are very prolific, so that we find swarms of lizards 
and snakes, the latter all harmless Boidse, but 
occasionally of considerable size. 

Crocodiles are found only in the Santa Cruz 
Islands, and do not grow so large there as in the 
Solomon Islands. 

Animal life in the sea is very rich ; turtles and 
many kinds of fish and Cetaceae are plentiful. 



INTRODUCTION 1 1 

Native Population 

The natives belong to the Melanesian race, which 
is a collective name for the dark-skinned, curly- 
haired, bearded inhabitants of the Pacific. The 
Melanesians are quite distinct from the Australians, 
and still more so from the lank-haired, light-skinned 
Polynesians of the eastern islands. Probably a 
mixture of Polynesians and Melanesians are the 
Micronesians, who are light-skinned but curly- 
haired, and of whom we find representatives in the 
New Hebrides. The island-nature of the archipelago 
is very favourable to race-mixture ; and as we know 
that on some islands there were several settlements 
of Polynesians, it is not surprising to find a very 
complex mingling of races, which it is not an easy 
task to disentangle. It would seem, however, that 
we have before us remnants of four races : a short, 
dark, curly-haired and perhaps original race, a few 
varieties of the tall Melanesian race, arrived in the 
islands in several migrations, an old Polynesian 
element as a relic of its former migrations eastward, 
and a present Polynesian element from the east. 

Every traveller will notice that the lightest 
population is in the south and north-east of the New 
Hebrides, while the darkest is in the north-west, and 
the ethnological difference corresponds to this division. 

In the Banks Islands we find, probably owing to 
recent immigration, more Polynesian blood than in 
the northern New Hebrides ; in the Santa Cruz group 
the process of mixing seems to be just going on. 



12 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

The number of natives in the New Hebrides and 
Banks Islands amounted, according to the approxi- 
mate census of the British Resident Commissioner in 
1 910, to 65,000. At a conservative estimate we may 
say that before the coming of the whites, that is, a 
generation ago, it was ten times that, i.e. 650,000. 
For to judge from present conditions, the accounts of 
old men and the many ruined villages, it is evident 
that the race must have decreased enormously. 

Language 

The languages belong to the Melanesian and 
Polynesian classes. They are split up into numerous 
dialects, so widely different that natives of different 
districts can hardly, if at all, understand each other. 
It is evident that owing to the seclusion of the 
villages caused by the general insecurity of former 
days, and the lack of any literature, the language 
developed differently in every village. 

On some islands things are so bad that one may 
easily walk in one day through several districts, in 
each of which is spoken a language quite unin- 
telligible to the neighbours ; there are even adjoining 
villages whose natives have to learn each other's 
language ; this makes them fairly clever linguists. 
Where, by migrations, conditions have become too 
complicated, the most important of the dialects has 
been adopted as a kind of "lingua franca." 

Under these circumstances I at once gave up the 
idea of learning a native language, as I never stopped 
anywhere more than a few weeks ; and as the 



INTRODUCTION 1 3 

missionaries have done good work in the cause of 
philology, my services were not needed. I was, 
therefore, dependent on interpreters in " biche la 
mar," a language which contains hardly more than 
fifty words, and which is spoken on the plantations, 
but is quite useless for discussing any abstract 
subject. In nearly every village there is some man 
who can speak biche la mar. 

Colonization 

As we have seen, colonization in the New 
Hebrides was begun by the whalers, who had several 
stations in the southern islands. They had, however, 
little intercourse with the natives, and their influence 
may be considered fairly harmless. 

More dangerous were the sandalwood traders, 
who worked chiefly in Erromanga. They were not 
satisfied with buying the valuable wood from the 
natives, but tried to get directly at the rich supplies 
inland. Naturally, they came into conflict with the 
natives, and fierce wars arose, in which the whites 
fought with all the weapons unscrupulous cruelty can 
wield. As a result, the population of Erromanga 
has decreased from between 5000 and 10,000 to 800. 

Happily, the northern islands were not so rich in 
sandalwood, so that contact with the whites came 
later, through the coprah-makers. Coprah is dried 
cocoa-nut, which is used in manufacturing soap, and 
the great wealth of cocoa-nut palms attracted coprah- 
makers as early as the 'Seventies of the last century. 
They were nearly all ruined adventurers, either 



14 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

escaped from the Noumea penitentiary or otherwise 
the scum of the white race. Such individuals would 
settle near a good anchorage close to some large vil- 
lage, build a straw hut, and barter coprah for European 
goods and liquor. They made a very fair profit, but 
were constantly quarrelling with the natives, whom 
they enraged by all sorts of brutalities. The frequent 
murders of such traders were excusable, to say the 
least, and many later ones were acts of justifiable 
revenge. The traders were kept in contact with 
civilization through small sailing-vessels, which 
brought them new goods and bought their coprah. 
This easy money-making attracted more whites, so 
that along the coasts of the more peaceable islands 
numerous Europeans settled, and at present there are 
so many of these stations that the coprah-trade is no 
longer very profitable. 

Naturally, many of these settlers started planta- 
tions, and thus grew up the plantation centres of 
Mele, Port Havannah, Port Sandwich, Epi and the 
Segond Channel. Many plantations were created by 
the " Soci^t6 Fran9aise des Nouvelles Hebrides," 
but owing to bad management these have never yet 
brought any returns. 

Thus, to the alcohol peril was added another 
danger to the natives, — work on the plantations. 
They were kidnapped, overworked, ill-fed ; it was 
slavery in its worst shape, and the treatment of the 
hands is best illustrated by the mortality which, in 
some places, reached" 44 per cent, per annum. In 
those days natives were plentiful and labour easy to 



INTRODUCTION 1 5 

get, and nobody worried about the future ; so the 
ruin of the race began, and to-day their number 
hardly suffices for the needs of the planters. 

Then the slave-trade to Queensland, Fiji, even 
South America began, so that the population, 
relatively small from the first, decreased alarmingly, 
all the more so as they were decimated by dysentery, 
measles, tuberculosis and other diseases. 

Against all these harmful influences the missions, 
unsupported as they were by any authority, could 
only fight by protests in the civilized countries ; these 
proved effectual at last, so that the missions deserve 
great credit for having preserved the native race. 
Yet it cannot be said that they have restored its 
vitality, except in Tanna. It seems as if the system 
of imbibing the native with so much European 
culture, and yet separating him from the whites and 
regulated labour, had been noxious to the race, for 
nearly everywhere the Christianized natives die out 
just as fast as the heathen population. 

About ten years after the French, the English 
began planting, and to-day nearly all arable land 
along the coast is cultivated. The English suffer 
much less from lack of labour, which is doubtless 
owing to their more humane and just treatment of 
the hands. In the first place, they usually come from 
better stock than the French, and, secondly, they are 
strictly controlled by the Government, whereas the 
French Government does not even attempt to enforce 
its own laws. 

There is now some question of importing Indian 



1 6 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

coolies ; the great expense this would entail would be 
a just punishment for the short-sighted cruelty with 
which the most valuable product of the islands — their 
population — has been destroyed. Only by compelling 
each native to work for a definite period could a 
sufficient amount of labour be produced to-day ; but 
such a system, while extremely beneficial to the race 
as a whole, stands but a poor chance of being 
introduced. 

The products of the islands are coprah, coffee, 
corn, cocoa and, of late years, cotton. The chief 
item, however, is coprah, for the islands seem specially 
suited for the growing of cocoa-nut palms. Rubber 
does not seem to thrive. 

In spite of the great number of officials, the 
Government does not make itself much felt outside 
the larger settlements, at least on the French side. 
There are not yet magistrates on each island, so that 
the Government hears only so much about the crimes 
committed on the islands as the planters care to tell, 
and naturally they do not tell too much. The British 
Government is represented by two inspectors, who 
frequently visit all the British plantations and look 
into labour conditions ; the activity of the French 
authorities is restricted to occasional visits from the 
Resident. 

Thus the natives have no means of complaining 
about the whites, while they have to submit to any 
punishment they may get on the accusation of a 
colonist. This would be a very one-sided affair; 
happily, the missionaries represent the interests of the 



INTRODUCTION 17 

natives, and the power of the Government does not 
reach far inland. There the natives are quite 
independent, so that only a few hours away from the 
coast cannibalism still flourishes. Formerly, expedi- 
tions from the men-of-war frightened the natives ; 
to-day they know that resistance is easy. It is, 
therefore, not the merit of the Government or the 
planters if the islands are fairly pacified, but only of 
the missions, which work mostly through native 
teachers. Still, the missions have had one bad 
effect : they have undermined the old native authori- 
ties and thus created general anarchy to complete the 
destruction begun by European civilization. 

In the Santa Cruz Islands there is only one planta- 
tion, worked by boys from the Solomon Islands, as 
the Santa Cruz natives are not yet used to regular 
work. But to-day they frequently recruit for the 
plantations on the Solomons, and there come into 
contact with civilization. There the labour conditions 
are strictly watched by the British Government ; still, 
boys returning from there have sometimes imported 
diseases, generally tuberculosis, which have reduced 
the population by half. 

Commerce 

Communications with Sydney, the commercial 
centre of the Western Pacific, are established by 
means of a French and an English line of steamers. 
A few small steamers and schooners ply at irregular 
intervals between Noumea and the New Hebrides. 

The English steamers fly the flag of Burns, Philp 



1 8 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

& Company, the great Australian firm which trades 
with numerous island groups of the South Seas. 
Their steamers touch the Lord Howe and Norfolk 
Islands, stop for a few days at Vila, then call in a 
four weeks' cruise at nearly all the plantations In the 
islands. They carry the mail and ply a profitable 
trade with the planters ; they also do errands for the 
colonists in Sydney, procuring anything from a needle 
to a horse or a house. Being practically without 
serious competitors they can set any price they please 
on commodities, so that they are a power in the 
islands and control the trade of the group ; all the 
more so as many planters are dependent on them for 
large loans. To me. Burns, Philp & Company were 
extremely useful, as on board their ships I could always 
find money, provisions and articles for barter, send 
my collections to Vila, and occasionaly travel from 
one island to another. 

The French line is run by the Messageries 
Maritimes, on quite a different plan : it is merely 
for mail-service and does not do any trading. Its 
handsome steamer travels in three weeks from 
Sydney to Noumea and Port Vila, visits about three 
plantations and leaves the islands after one week. 
This line offers the shortest and most comfortable 
connection with Sydney, taking eight days for the 
trip, while the English steamers take eleven. 

The port of entrance to the group is Port Vila, 
chosen for its proximity to New Caledonia and 
Sydney ; it is a good harbour, though somewhat 
narrow. 



CHAPTER I 
NOUM^.A AND TORT VILA 

On April 26, 19 10, I arrived at Noumea by the 
large and very old mail-steamer of the Messageries 
Maritimes, plying between Marseilles and Noumea, 
which I had boarded at Sydney. 

Noumea impresses one very unfavourably. A 
time of rapid development has been followed by a 
period of stagnation, increased by the suppression of 
the penitentiary, the principal source of income to 
the town. The latter has never grown to the size 
originally planned and laid out, and its desolate squares 
and decayed houses are a depressing sight. Two or 
three steamers and a few sailing-vessels are all the 
craft the harbour contains ; a few customs officers 
and discharged convicts loaf on the pier, where 
some natives from the Loyalty Islands sleep or 
shout. 

Parallel streets lead from the harbour to the hills 
that fence the town to the landward. Under roofs of 
corrugated sheet-iron run the sidewalks, along dark 
stores displaying unappetizing food, curios and cheap 
millinery. At each corner is a dismal sailors' bar, 
smelling of absinthe. Then we come to an empty, 
decayed square, where a crippled, noseless "Gallia" 
stands on a fountain ; some half-drunk coachmen 



20 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

lounge dreaming on antediluvian cabs, and a few old 
convicts sprawl on benches. 

Along the hillside are the houses of the high 
officials and the better class of people. There is a 
club, where fat officials gather to play cards and 
drink absinthe and champagne ; they go to the 
barber's, roll cigarettes, drink some more absinthe 
and go to bed early, after having visited a music-hall, 
in which monstrous dancing-girls from Sydney 
display their charms and moving-picture shows 
present blood-curdling dramas. Then there is the 
Governor's residence, the town hall, etc., and the 
only event in this quiet city of officials is the arrival 
of the mail-steamer, when all the " beau-monde " 
gathers on the pier to welcome the few passengers, 
whether known or unknown. 

In Noumea itself there is no industry, and the 
great export of minerals does not touch the town. 
Once, Noumea was meant to form a base of naval 
operations, and strongly fortified. But after a few 
years this idea was abandoned, after having cost large 
sums, and now the fortifications are left to decay and 
the heavy, modern guns to rust. 

In spite of a prohibition, one may climb up to the 
forts, and be rewarded by a beautiful view of the 
island, which does not impress one as tropical. The 
rounded hills are covered with shrubs, and only in 
the valleys are there a few trees ; we are surprised 
by the strong colouring of the distant mountains, 
shining purple through the violet atmosphere. 

Seaward, we see the white line of the breakers, 



NOUMEA AND POUT VILA 21 

indicating the great barrier-reef which surrounds the 
isle with an almost impenetrable belt ; a few channels 
only lead from the shore to the open ocean. 

On the ist of May the Pacific arrived at Noumea, 
and her departure for Vila, next day, ended a most 
tiresome stay. 

It was a sad, rainy day when we left. Impatiently 
the passengers waited till the freight was loaded, — 
houses, iron, horses, cases of tins, etc. Of course we 
were six hours late, and all the whites were angry, 
while the few natives did not care, but found a dry 
corner, rolled themselves up in their blankets and 
dozed. When we finally left, heavy squalls were 
rushing over the sea ; in the darkness a fog came on, 
so that we had soon to come to anchor. But next 
morning we had passed the Loyalty Islands and were 
rolling in the heavy swell the south-east trade raises 
on the endless surface of the Pacific. 

Next day, through the light mist of a summer 
morning, the forms of islands appeared, flat, bluish- 
grey lines, crowned with rounded hills. Slowly finer 
points appeared, the ridge of mountains showed 
details and we could recognize the tops of the 
giant banyan trees, towering above the forest as a 
cathedral does over the houses of a city. We saw 
the surf, breaking in the coral cliffs of flat shores, 
found the entrance to the wide bay, noticed the 
palms with elegantly curved trunks bending over the 
beach, and unexpectedly entered the lagoon, that 
shone in the bright sun like a glittering sapphire. 

We had passed the flat cliffs, covered only with 



22 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

iron-wood trees, and now the water was bordered by 
high coral plateaux, from which a luxuriant forest 
fell down in heavy cascades, in a thickness almost 
alarming, like the eruption of a volcano, when one 
cloud pushes the other before it and new ones are 
ever behind. It seemed as if each tree were trying to 
strangle the others in a fight for life, while the 
weakest, deprived of their ground, clung frantically to 
the shore and would soon be pushed far out over the 
smooth, shining sea. There the last dense crowns 
formed the beautiful fringe of the green carpet 
stretched soft and thick over the earth. 

Only here and there the shore was free, showing 
the coral strand as a line of white that separated the 
blue of the sea from the green of the forest and 
intensified every colour in the landscape. It was a 
vision of the most magnificent luxuriance, so different 
from the view which the barren shores of eastern 
New Caledonia offer. 

The bay became narrower and we approached the 
port proper. Small islands appeared, between which 
we had glimpses of cool bays across glassy, deep- 
green water, and before us lay a broken line of light- 
coloured houses along the beach, while on the plateau 
behind we could see the biof court-house and some villas. 

A little distance off-shore we dropped anchor, and 
were soon surrounded by boats, from which the inhabit- 
ants came on board. A kind planter brought me and 
my belongings ashore, and I took up my quarters in the 
only hotel in Port Vila, the so-called "blood-house," 
thus named because of its history. 



NOUMfiA AND PORT VILA 23 

Vila is merely the administration centre, and 
consists of nothing but a few stores and the houses 
of the Condominium officials. There is little life, and 
only the arrival of the ships brings some excitement, 
so that the stranger feels bored and lonely, especially 
as the "blood-house" does not offer many comforts 
and the society there is not of the choicest. 

I immediately went to present my letters of intro- 
duction to the French Resident. The offices of the 
British Residence were still on the small island of 
lariki, which I could not reach without a boat. The 
French Residence is a long, flat, unattractive build- 
ing ; the lawn around the house was fairly well kept, 
but perfectly bare, in accordance with the French 
idea of salubrity, except for a few straggling bushes 
near by. Fowls and horses promenaded about. But 
the view is one of the most charming to be found in 
the islands. Just opposite is the entrance to the bay, 
and the two points frame the sea most effectively, 
numerous smaller capes deepening the perspective. 
Along their silhouettes the eye glides into far spaces, 
to dive beyond the horizon into infinity. lariki is 
just in front, and we can see the well-kept park 
around the British Residence, with its mixture of art 
and wilderness ; near by is the smooth sea shining in 
all colours. While the shores are of a yellowish 
green, the sea is of every shade of blue, and the 
green of the depths is saturated with that brilliant 
turquoise tint which is enough to put one into a light 
and happy humour. This being my first sight of a 
tropical landscape, my delight was great, and made 



24 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

up for any disappointment human inefficiency had 
occasioned. 

The French Resident, Mr. C, received me most 
kindly, and did me the honour of inviting me to be 
his guest. I had planned to stay in Vila a few weeks, 
so as to get acquainted with the country and hire 
boys ; but the Resident seemed to think that I only 
intended a short visit to the islands, and he proposed 
to take me with him on a cruise through the archi- 
pelago and to deposit me at the Segond Channel, an 
invitation I could not well refuse. My objection of 
having no servants was overruled by the Resident's 
assurance that I could easily find some in Santo. I 
therefore made my preparations and got my luggage 
ready. 

In the afternoon, Mr, C. lent me his boat to go 
and pay my respects to Mr. Morton King, the British 
Resident. The difference between the two residences 
was striking, but it would be out of place to dwell 
on it here. It may be caused by the fact that the 
French Resident is, as a rule, recalled every six 
months, while the British Resident had been at Vila 
for more than three years. Mr. King received me 
most cordially and also offered his hospitality, which, 
however, I was unable to accept. Later on Mr. King 
assisted and sheltered me in the most generous 
manner, so that I shall always remember his help and 
friendship with sincere gratitude. 

I also had the honour of making the acquaint- 
ance of the British judge and of most of the Con- 
dominium officials. 



NOUMEA AND PORT VILA 25 

It was a dull morning when we left Vila on board 
the French Government yacht. In days gone by she 
had been an elegant racing-boat, but was now some- 
what decayed and none too clean ; however, she had 
been equipped with a motor, so that we were inde- 
pendent of the wind. 

Besides the Resident and myself there were on 
board the French judge, the police commissioner, and 
a crew of boys from the Loyalty Islands near New 
Caledonia. These are excellent sailors and are 
employed in Vila as French policemen. They are 
very strong and lively and great fighters, and would 
be perfect material for a police force were they not 
such confirmed drunkards. Because of this defect 
they all had to be dismissed soon afterwards and 
sent back to their own country, as in Vila, instead of 
arresting drunken natives, they had generally been 
drunk themselves and were often fighting in the 
streets. But on board ship, where they had no 
opportunity to get drunk, they were very willing and 
always cheerful and ready for sport of any kind. 

We did not travel far that first day, but stopped 
after a few hours' sail in Port Havannah, north of 
the Bay of IMele. This port would be one of the 
best harbours in the group, as it is almost entirely 
landlocked ; only, the water is so deep that small 
craft cannot anchor. Yet it would be preferable to 
Port Vila, as the climate is much better, Vila being 
one of the hottest, stuffiest and rainiest spots in 
the group, and its harbour is becoming too small 
for the increased traffic of the last few years. Port 



26 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

Vila only became the capital of the islands when 
the English influence grew stronger, while all the 
land round Port Havannah belonged to a French 
company. 

We spent the afternoon on shore shooting pigeons. 
Besides a few ducks, flying-foxes and wild pigs, 
pigeons are the only game in the islands ; but this 
pigeon-shooting is a peculiar sport and requires a 
special enthusiasm to afford pleasure for any length 
of time. The birds are extremely shy and generally 
sit on the tops of the highest trees where a European 
can hardly discover them. The natives, however, are 
very clever in detecting them, but when they try to 
show you the pigeon it generally flies off and is lost ; 
and if you shoot it, it is hard to find, even for 
a native. The natives themselves are capable of 
approaching the birds noiselessly and unseen, because 
of their colour, so as to shoot them from a short 
distance. My pigeon-shooting usually consisted in 
waiting for several hours in the forest, with very 
unsatisfactory results, so that I soon gave it up. 

We were all unsuccessful on this particular day, 
but it ended most gaily with a dance at the house of 
a French planter. 

We slept on board, rocked softly by the ship, 
against which the waves plashed in cosy whispering. 
The sky was bright with stars, but below decks it 
was dark and stuffy. Now and then a big fish 
jumped out of the black sea, otherwise it was quiet, 
dull and gloomy as a dismal dream. 

Next day we rose early and went shooting again. 



NOUMfiA AND PORT VILA 27 

Probably because we had been given the best wishes 
of an old French lady the result was as unsatisfac- 
tory as the evening before. We then resumed our 
journey in splendid weather, with a stiff breeze, and 
flying through blue spaces on the bright waves, we 
rapidly passed several small islands, sighted " Monu- 
ment Rock," a lonely cliff that rises abruptly out of 
the sea to a height of 130 m., and arrived late in the 
afternoon at Maei, our destination. 



CHAPTER II 
MAEI, TONGOA, EPI AND MALEKULA 

Maei is a small island whose natives have nearly all 
disappeared, as is the case on most of its neighbours. 
There is one small plantation, with the agent of which 
the Resident had business. After we had passed the 
narrow inlet through the reef, we landed, to find the 
agent in a peculiar, half-mad condition. He pre- 
tended to suffer from fever, but it was evident that 
alcohol had a good deal to do with it, too. The man 
made strange faces, could hardly talk and was quite 
unable to write ; he said the fever had deprived him 
of the power of using his fingers. He was asked to 
dinner on board, and as he could not speak French 
nor the Resident English, negotiations were carried 
on in biche la mar, a language in which it is im- 
possible to talk about anything but the simplest 
matters of everyday life. Things got still worse 
when the agent became more and more intoxicated, 
in spite of the small quantities of liquor we allowed 
him. I had to act as interpreter, a most ungrateful 
task, as the planter soon began to insult the Resident, 
and I had to translate his remarks and the Resident's 
answers. At last, funny as the whole affair was in a 
way, it became very tiresome ; happily, matters came 
to a sudden close by the planter's falling under the 

28 



MAEI, TONGOA, EPI AND MALEKULA 29 

table. He was then taken ashore by his native wife 
and the police-boys, who enjoyed this duty im- 
mensely. We smoked a quiet pipe, looked after the 
fish-hooks — empty, of course — and slept on deck in 
the cool night air. Next morning the planter came 
aboard somewhat sobered and more tractable. He 
brouofht with him his wife, and their child whom he 
wished to adopt. As the native women do not as a 
rule stay with their masters very long, the children 
are registered under the formula: "Child of N. N., 
mother unknown," an expression which sounds some- 
what queer to those who do not know the reason 
for it. 

After having finished this business, we weighed 
anchor and set sail for Tongoa. This is one of the 
few islands whose native population does not decrease. 
The Presbyterian missionary there gives the entire 
credit for this pleasant fact to his exertions, as the 
natives are all converted. But as in other completely 
Christianized districts the natives die out rapidly, it is 
doubtful whether Christianity alone has had this bene- 
ficial effect, and we must seek other causes, though 
they are hard to find. 

After a clear night we sailed along the coast of 
Epi. The bright weather had changed to a dull, 
rainy day, and the aspect of the landscape was entirely 
altered. The smiling islands had become sober, 
lonely, even threatening. When the charm of a 
country consists so entirely in its colouring, any modi- 
fication of the atmosphere and light cause such a change 
in its character that the same view may look either 



30 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

like Paradise or entirely dull and inhospitable. What 
had been thus far a pleasure trip, a holiday excursion, 
turned suddenly into a business journey, and this 
change in our mood was increased by a slight illness 
which had attacked the Resident, making the jovial 
gentleman morose and irritable. 

The stay in Epi was rather uninteresting. Owing 
to the dense French colonization there the natives 
have nearly all disappeared or become quite de- 
generate. We spent our time in visits to the 
different French planters and then sailed for Male- 
kula, anchoring in Port Sandwich. 

Port Sandwich is a long, narrow bay in the south 
of Malekula, and after Port Vila the most frequented 
harbour of the group, as it is very centrally located 
and absolutely safe. Many a vessel has found pro- 
tection there from storm or cyclone. The entrance 
to the bay is narrow, and at the anchorage we were 
so completely landlocked that we might have imagined 
ourselves on an inland lake, so quiet is the water, 
surrounded on all sides by the dark green forest 
which falls in heavy waves down from the hills to the 
silent, gloomy sea. 

Immediately after our arrival my companions went 
pigeon-shooting as usual ; but I soon preferred to join 
the son of the French planter at Port Sandwich in a 
visit to the neighbouring native village. This was 
my first sight of the real, genuine aborigines. 

No one with any taste for nature will fail to feel 
the solemnity of the moment when he stands face to 
face for the first time with primitive man. As the 



MAEI, TONGOA, EPI AND MALEKULA 31 

traveller enters the depths of the virgin forest for the 
first time with sacred awe, he feels that he stands 
before a still higher revelation of nature when the 
first dark, naked man suddenly appears. Silently he 
has crept through the thicket, has parted the branches, 
and confronts us unexpectedly on a narrow path, shy 
and silent, while we are struck with surprise. His 
figure is but slightly relieved against the green of the 
bushes ; he seems part of the silent, luxuriant world 
around him, a being strange to us, a part of those 
realms which we are used to imagine as void of feeling 
and incapable of thought. But a word breaks the 
spell, intelligence gleams in his face, and what, so far, 
has seemed a strange being, belonging rather to the 
lower animals than to human-kind, shows himself a 
man, and becomes equal to ourselves. Thus the 
endless, inhospitable jungle, without open spaces or 
streets, without prairies and sun, that dense tangle of 
lianas and tree-trunks, shelters men like ourselves. 
It seems marvellous to think that in those depths, 
dull, dark and silent as the fathomless ocean, men 
can live, and we can hardly blame former generations 
for denying all kinship with these savages and count- 
ing them as animals ; especially as the native never 
seems more primitive than when he is roaming the 
forest, naked but for a bark belt, with a big curly wig 
and waving plumes, bow and arrow his only weapons. 
When alarmed, he hides in the foliage, and once 
swallowed up in the green depths which are his home 
and his protection, neither eye nor ear can find any 
trace of him. 



32 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

But our ideas change when we enter his village 
home, with its dancing-grounds with the big drums, 
the sacred stone tables, idols and carved tree-trunks, 
all in a frame of violently coloured bushes — red, purple, 
brown and orange. Above us, across a blue sky, a 
tree with scarlet flowers blows in the breeze, and long 
stamens fall slowly down and cover the ground with 
a brilliant carpet. Dogs bark, roosters crow and 
from a hut a man creeps out — others emerge from the 
bush and from half-hidden houses which at first we 
had not noticed. At some distance stand the women 
and children in timid amazement, and then begins a 
chattering, or maybe a whispered consultation about 
the arrival of the stranger. We are in the midst of 
human life, in a busy little town, where the sun pours 
through the gaps in the dark forest, and flowers give 
colour and brightness, and where, after all, life is not 
so very much less human than in civilization. 

Then the forest has lifted its veil, we have entered 
the sanctuary, and the alarming sensation of nature's 
hostility is softened. We white men like to talk 
about our mastery over nature, but is it not rather 
true that we flee from nature, as its most intense 
manifestations are oppressive to us.-* Is not the 
savage, living so very close to nature, more its master, 
or at least its friend, than we are ? We need space 
and the sight of sun and sky to feel happy ; the night 
of the forest, the loneliness of the ocean are terrible 
to us, whilst to the native they are his home and his 
element. 

It is evident that under our first strong impression 



MAEI, TONGOA, El'I AND MALEKULA 33 

of the native's life we overlook much — the filth, the 
sores, the brutality of social life ; but these are really 
only ripples on an otherwise smooth existence, defects 
which are not less present in our civilization, but are 
better concealed. 

The next day we followed the coast of Malekula 
southward. There are immense coral reefs attached 
to the coast, so that often the line of breakers is one 
or two miles away from the shore. These reefs are 
a solid mass of cleft coral stones constantly growing 
seaward. Their surface is more or less flat, about on 
a level with the water at low tide, so that it then lies 
nearly dry, and one can walk on the reefs, jumping 
over the wide crevices in which the sea roars and 
oruro^les with the rise and fall of the breakers outside. 
These ever-growing reefs would surround the whole 
coast were it not for the fresh water that oozes out 
from the land and prevents the coral from growing at 
certain points, thus keeping open narrow passages 
through the reef, or wider stretches along the coast 
free from rocks. These basins form grood anchor- 
ages for small craft, as the swell of the open sea can- 
not cross the reef; only the entrances are often 
crooked and hard to find. 

Our captain brought us safely into a quiet lagoon, 
where the yacht lay in deep green water, smooth as 
glass, while beyond the reef the breakers dashed a 
silver line across the blue ocean. 

Of course we immediately went shooting on the 
reef. I did not have much sport, as I could see 
nothing worth shooting, but I was much interested in 
3 



34 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

wading in the warm water to observe the multiform 
animal life of the reef. There was the " beche-de- 
mer," the sea-cucumber, yellow or purplish-black, a 
shapeless mass lying in pools ; this is a delicacy 
highly valued by the Chinese and therefore a frequent 
article of exportation. The animals are collected, cut 
open, dried and shipped. There was the ugly 
mursena, which goes splashing and winding like a 
snake between boulders, and threatens the intruder 
with poisonous looks and snapping jaws. Innumer- 
able bright-coloured fish shot hither and thither in 
the flat pools, there were worms, sea-stars, octopus, 
crabs. The wealth of animal life on the reef, where 
each footstep stirs up a hundred creatures, is incredible, 
and ever so many more are hidden in the rocks and 
crevices. 

The plants that had taken root in the coral were 
mostly mangrove bushes with great forked roots. 



CHAPTER III 

THE SEGOND CHANNEL— LIFE ON A 
PLANTATION 

When the tide rose, we returned to the yacht and 
continued our cruise northward, passed the small 
islands of Rano, Atchin, Vao and others, crossed the 
treacherous Bougainville Strait between Malekula and 
Santo, and came to anchor in the Canal du Segond 
formed by Santo and Malo. This channel is about 
eight miles long and three-quarters of a mile wide at 
its narrowest point. On its shores, which belong to 
a French company, is a colony of about a hundred 
and fifty Frenchmen, The Segond Channel would 
be a good harbour but for very strong currents 
caused by the tides, which are unfavourable to small 
boats ; its location, too, is not very central. The 
shores are flat, but rise abruptly at some points to 
a height of 150 m. There are level lands at the 
mouth of the Sarrakatta River and on the tablelands. 
The Sarrakatta is one of the sicfhts of the New 
Hebrides, and a pull up the narrow stream affords 
one of the most impressive views to be had of tropical 
vegetation. The river cuts straight through the 
forest, so that the boat moves between two high walls 
of leafy green. Silently glides the stream, silently 
broods the forest, only the boat swishes softly, and 



36 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

sometimes a frightened fish splashes up. Every bend 
we round shows us new and surprisingly charming 
views : now we pass a giant tree, which towers up 
kinor-like on its iron-hard irunk far above the rest of 
the forest, trunk and limbs covered with a fine lace- 
work of tender-leaved lianas ; now we sweep along 
a high bank, under a bower of overhanging branches. 
The water caresses the tips of the twigs, and through 
the leaves the sun pours golden into the cool darkness. 
Again we glide into the light, and tangled shrubbery 
seams the river bank, from which long green strands 
of vines trail down and curl in the water like snakes. 
Knobby roots rise out of the ground ; they have 
caught floating trunks, across which the water pours, 
lifting and dropping the wet grasses that grow on the 
rotten stems. Farther up the bushes are entirely 
covered with vines and creepers, whose large, thick 
leaves form a scaly coat of mail under which the half- 
strangled trees seem to fig^ht in vain for air and 
freedom. In shallow places stiff bamboos sprout, 
their long yellow leaves trembling nervously in an 
imperceptible breeze ; again we see trees hung with 
creepers as if wearing torn flags ; and once in a while 
we catch sight of that most charming of tropical trees, 
the tree-fern, with its lovely star-shaped crown, like a 
beautiful, dainty work of art in the midst of the 
uncultivated wilderness. As if in a dream we row 
back down stream, and like dream-pictures all the 
various green shapes of the forest sweep by and 
disappear. 

The Resident introduced me to the French 



LIFE ON A PLANTATION 37 

planters, Mr. and Mrs. Ch., and asked them to take 
me in, which they agreed to do. Having rented an 
old plantation from the French company, they had 
had the good fortune to find a regular frame house 
ready for them. 

After I had moved into my quarters the Resident 
returned to Vila, and I remained on the borders of the 
wilderness. What followed now was a most un- 
satisfactory time of waiting, the first of many similar 
periods. Having no servants, I could undertake 
nothing independently, and since the planters were 
all suffering from lack of hands, I could not hire any 
boys. As the natives around the French plantations 
at the Canal du Segond are practically exterminated, 
I saw hardly any ; but at least I got a good insight 
into the life on a plantation, such as it was. 

With his land, Mr. Ch. had rented about 
thirty boys, with whom he was trying to work the 
completely decayed plantation. Many acres were 
covered with coffee trees, but owing to the miserable 
management of the French company, the planters 
had changed continually and the system of planting 
just as often. Every manager had abandoned the 
work of his predecessor and begun planting anew on 
a different system, so that now there was an immense 
tract of land planted which had never yet yielded a 
crop. In a short time such intended plantations are 
overgrown with bush and reconquered by the wilder- 
ness ; thus thousands of coffee trees were covered 
with vines and struocrled in vain for light and air. It 
may seem incredible that in two weeks, on cleared 



38 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

ground, grass can grow up as tall as a man, and that 
after six months a cleared plantation can be covered 
with bushes and shrubs with stems as thick as one's 
finger. The planter, knowing that this overwhelming 
fertility and the jealous advances of the forest are his 
most formidable enemies, directs his most strenuous 
efforts to keeping clear his plantation, especially while 
the plants are young and unable to fight down the 
weeds. Later on, weeding is less urgent, but in the 
beginning it is the one essential duty, more so than 
planting. Mr. Ch. had therefore an enormous task 
before him, and as he could not expect any return 
from the coffee trees for two or three years, he did as 
all planters do, and sowed corn, which yields a crop 
after three months. 

His labourers, dark, curly-haired men, clad in 
rags, were just then occupied in gathering the big 
ears of corn. Sluggishly they threw the golden ears 
over their shoulders to the ground, where it was 
collected by the women and carried to the shed on 
the beach — a long roof of leaves, without walls. Mr. 
Ch. urged the men to hurry, as the corn had to be 
ready for shipment in a few days, the Pacific^ the 
French mail-steamer, being due. Produce deteriorates 
rapidly in the islands owing to the humid climate, 
so it cannot be stored long, especially where there 
is no dry storehouse. Therefore, crops can only be 
gathered just before the arrival of a steamer, making 
these last days very busy ones everywhere. It is 
fortunate for the planters that the native labourers are 
not yet organized and do not insist on an eight-hour 



LIFE ON A PLANTATION 39 

day. As it was, Mr. Ch. had to leave more than half 
his crop to rot in the fields, a heavy rain having 
delayed the harvesting. 

The humidity at the Segond Channel is exception- 
ally great. As we stood on the fine coral sand that 
forms the shores of the channel, our clothes were 
damp with the rain from the weeds and shrubs which we 
had passed through while stumbling through the plant- 
ation. The steel-grey sea quivers, sleepy and pulpy 
looking ; in front of us, in a grey mist, lies the flat 
island of Aore, the air smells mouldy, and brown rain- 
clouds roll over the wall of primeval forest surrounding 
the clearing on three sides. The atmosphere is heavy, 
and a fine spray floats in the air and covers everything 
with moisture. Knives rust in one's pocket, matches 
refuse to light, tobacco is like a sponge and paper 
like a rag. It had been like this for three months ; 
no wonder malarial fever raged among the white 
population. Mr. Ch., after only one year's sojourn 
here, looked like a very sick man ; he was frightfully 
thin and pale and very nervous ; so was his wife, a 
delicate lady of good French family. She did the 
hard work of a planter's wife with admirable courage, 
and, while she had never taken an active part in 
housekeeping in France, here she was standing all 
day long behind a smoky kitchen fire, cooking or 
washing dishes, assisted only by a very incapable and 
unsophisticated native woman. 

On our return to the house, which lies about 200 
metres inland, we found this black lady occupied 
with the extremely hard and puzzling task of laying the 



40 WITH NATIVES LN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

table. It seemed to give her the greatest trouble, 
and the deep distrust with which she handled the 
plates found eloquent expression in queer sighs and 
mysterious exclamations in her native tongue, in 
resigned shakes of the head and emphatic smacking 
of the lips. She was a crooked bush-woman from 
the north of Malekula, where the people, especially 
the women, are unusually ugly and savage. A low 
forehead, small, deep-set eyes, and a snout-like 
mouth gave her a very animal look ; yet she showed 
human feeling, and nursed a shrieking and howling 
orphan all day long with the most tender care. Her 
little head was shaved and two upper teeth broken 
out as a sign of matrimony, so she certainly was no 
beauty ; but the sight of her clumsy working was a 
constant source of amusement to us men, very much 
less so to her mistress, to whom nothing but her 
sincere zeal and desire to help could make up for her 
utter inefficiency. 

It cannot be denied that the women from those 
islands, where their social standing is especially low, 
are not half so intelligent and teachable as those 
from places where they are more nearly equal to the 
men ; probably because they are subdued and kept 
in degradation from early youth, and not allowed any 
initiative or opinions of their own. But physically 
these women are very efficient and quite equal to 
the men in field work, or even superior, being more 
industrious. 

The feat of setting the table was accomplished 
in about an hour, and we sat down to our simple 




OLD MAX WITH YOUNG WIFE OX AMBRYX. 



LIFE ON A PLANTATION 41 

meal — tinned meat, yams and bananas. Then the 
foreman came in. Only a short time ago he was one 
of the finest warriors in the interior of Malekula, 
where cannibalism is still an everyday occurrence. 
He, too, wears his hair short, only, according to the 
present fashion, he lets the hair on his forehead grow 
in a roll-shaped bow across the head. He is well 
built, though rather short, and behaves with natural 
politeness. His voice is soft, his look gentle and in 
the doorway his dark figure shines in the lamplight 
like a bronze statue. 

Mr. Ch. tells him that the boys will have to 
work all night, at the same time promising an en- 
couragement in the shape of a glass of wine to each. 
The natives' craving for alcohol is often abused by 
unscrupulous whites. Although the sale of liquor to 
natives is strictly forbidden by the laws of the Condo- 
minium, the French authorities do not even seem to try 
to enforce this regulation, in fact, they rather impressed 
me as favouring the sale, thus protecting the interests 
of a degraded class of whites, to the detriment of a 
valuable race. As a consequence, there are not a 
few Frenchmen who make their living by selling 
spirits to natives, which may be called, without 
exaggeration, a murderous and criminal traffic. 

Others profit indirectly by the alcoholism of the 
islanders by selling liquor to their hands every 
Saturday, so as to make them run into debt ; they 
will all spend their entire wages on drink. If, their 
term of engagement being over, they want to return 
to their homes, they are told that they are still deep 



42 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

in debt to their master, and that they will have to 
pay off by working for some time longer. The poor 
fellows stay on and on, continue to drink, are never 
out of debt, and never see their homes again. 
This practice has developed of late years in con- 
sequence of the scarcity of labour, and is nothing but 
slavery. It might easily be abolished by a slight 
effort on the part of the Government, but there is hardly 
any supervision over French plantations outside Port 
Vila, and in many plantations conditions exist which are 
an insult to our modern views on humane treatment. 
On English plantations there is but little brutality, 
owing to the Government's careful supervision of the 
planters and the higher social and moral standing of 
the settlers in general. 

My host had some European conscience left, and 
treated his hands very humanely, but I dare say that 
in course of time, and pressed by adverse circum- 
stances, even he resorted to means of finding cheap 
labour which were none too fair. The French by- 
laws permit the delivery of alcohol to natives in 
the shape of "medicine," a stipulation which opens 
the door to every abuse. 

The boys were soon on hand, each awaiting his 
turn eagerly, yet trying to seem blasd. Some drank 
greedily, others tasted the sour wine in little sips like 
old experts ; but all took care to turn their backs to 
us while drinking, as if from bashfulness. Then they 
went to work, giggling and happy. 

Meanwhile, those on the sick-list were coming up 
for the planter's inspection. The diseases are mostly 



LIFE ON A PLANTATION 43 

tuberculosis, colds, indigestion, fever and infections, 
and it is evident that if they receive any medical 
treatment at all, it is of a primitive and insufficient 
description. The planters work with fearfully strong 
plasters, patent medicines and "universal remedies," 
used internally and externally by turns, so that the 
patient howls and the spectator shudders, and the 
results would be most disheartening if kind Nature 
did not often do the healing in spite of man's efforts 
to prevent it. Naturally, every planter thinks him- 
self an expert doctor, and is perfectly satisfied with 
his results. 

Mr. Ch. was ill with fever, nevertheless we went 
down to the work-shed. It was a pitch-dark night, 
the air was like that in a hothouse, smelling of earth 
and mould. The surf boomed sullenly on the beach, 
and heavy squalls flogged the forest. Sometimes a 
rotten branch snapped, and the sound travelled, dull 
and heavy, through the night. 

From far away we hear the noise of the engine 
peeling the corn-ears. Two of the natives turn the 
fly-wheels, and the engine gives them immense 
pleasure, all the more, the faster it runs. The 
partners are selected with care, and it is a matter of 
pride to turn wheels as long and as fast as possible ; 
they encourage each other with wild shrieks and 
cries. It seemed as if the work had turned to a 
festival, as if it were a sort of dance, and the couples 
waited impatiently for their turn to drive the engine. 
The delight of the boys in the noise of the machinery 
was very favourable to the progress of the work, and 



44 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

at midniorht a lona row of full sacks stood in the 
shed. We stopped the work and told the boys to 
go to sleep. But the demon of dancing had taken 
hold of them, and they kept it up all night, and then 
went straight to work in the fields when the sun rose. 
By the third evening everything was ready for the 
arrival of the Pacific, and the boys were deadly tired 
and lame. 

We were just sitting down to dinner one dull, 
heavy night, when we heard a steamer's long, rough 
whistle. The Pacific. Everyone jumps up in ex- 
citement, for the Pacific brings a taste of civilization, 
and her arrival marks the end of a busy week and 
breaks the monotony of daily life. We run to the 
shore and light strong lamps at fixed points, to in- 
dicate the anchorage, and then we rush back to finish 
dinner and put on clean clothes. Meanwhile, the boys 
have been roused, and they arrive, sleepy, stiff and 
unwillino;', aware that a hard night's work is before 
them, loading the produce into the tenders. 

The steamer approaches quickly, enormous and 
gay in the darkness, then she slowly feels her way 
into the harbour, the anchor falls, and after a few 
oscillations the long line of brightly lit portholes lies 
quiet on the water, only their reflection flickers 
irregularly on the waves through the night. In all 
directions we can see the lights of the approaching 
boats of the planters, who come to announce their 
shipments and to spend a gay evening on board. 
There are always some passengers on the steamer, 
planters from other islands on their way to Vila or 



LIFE ON A PLANTATION 45 

Sydney, and soon carousing is in full swing, until the 
bar closes. 

All next day the steamer stays in the channel, 
taking on produce from every plantation, and for two 
days afterward merrymaking is kept up, then the 
quiet monotony of a tropical planter's life sets in once 
more. 

Sometimes a diversion is caused by a boy rushing 
up to the house to announce that some "men-bush" 
are approaching. Going to the veranda, we see 
some lean figures with big mops of hair coming 
slowly down the narrow path from the forest, with 
soft, light steps. Some distance behind follows a 
crowd of others, who squat down near the last shrubs 
and examine everything with shy, suspicious eyes, 
while the leaders approach the house. Nearly all 
carry old Snider rifles, always loaded and cocked. 
The leaders stand silent for a while near the veranda, 
then one of them whispers a few words in broken 
"biche la mar," describing what he wants to buy — 
knives, cartridges, powder, tobacco, pipes, matches, 
calico, beads. "All right," says Mr. Ch., and some 
of the men bring up primitive baskets of cocoa-nut 
leaves, filled with coprah or bunches of raw cocoa- 
nuts. All of them, especially the women, have 
carried great loads of these things from their villages 
in the interior on the poorest paths, marching for 
days. 

The baskets are weighed and the desired eoods 
handed to the head-man. Here the whites make a 
profit of 200-300 per cent., while on the other islands, 



46 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

where there is more competition, they have to be 
satisfied with 30 per cent. Each piece is carefully 
examined by the natives : the pipes, to see if they 
draw, the matches, whether they strike, etc., while 
the crowd behind follows every movement with the 
greatest attention and mysterious whispers, con- 
stantly on the watch for any menace to safety. The 
lengthy bargaining over, the delegation turns away 
and the whole crowd disappears. In the nearest 
thicket they sit down and distribute the goods — 
perhaps a dozen boxes of matches, a few belts, or 
some yards of calico, two pounds of tobacco, and 
twenty pipes, a poor return, indeed, for their long 
journey. Possibly they will spend the night in the 
neighbourhood, under an overhanging rock, on the 
bare stone, all crowded round a fire for fear of 
the spirits of the night. 

Sometimes, having worked for another planter, 
they have a little money. Although every planter 
keeps his own store, the natives, as a rule, prefer to 
buy from his neighbour, from vague if not quite 
unjustified suspicion. They rarely engage for any 
length of time, except when driven by the desire to 
buy some valuable object, generally a rifle, without 
which no native likes to be seen in Santo to-day. In 
that case several men work together for one, who 
afterwards indemnifies them for their help in native 
fashion by giving them pigs or rendering them other 
services. On the plantations they are suspicious and 
lazy, but quite harmless as long as they are not 
provoked. Mr. Ch. had had about thirty men 



^%^»*^ 




LIFE ON A PLANTATION 47 

working on his plantation for quite some time, and 
everything had gone well, until one day one of them 
had fallen into the Sarrakatta and been drowned. 
According to native law, Mr. Ch. was responsible for 
his death, and should have paid for him, which he 
omitted to do. At first there was general dismay, 
no one dared approach the river any more ; then the 
natives all returned to their villages, and a few days 
later they swarmed round the plantation with rifles 
to avenge their dead relative by murdering Mr. Ch. 
He was warned by his boys, who were from Malekula 
for the most part, and this saved his life. He armed 
his men, and after a siege of several weeks the bush- 
men gave up the watch and retired. But no one 
would return to work for him any more. 

Altogether, the bushmen of Santo are none too 
reliable, and only the memory of a successful landing 
expedition of the English man-of-war a year ago 
keeps them quiet. On that occasion they had 
murdered an old Englishman and two of his 
daughters, just out of greed, so as to pillage his store. 
They had not found much, but they had to pay for 
the murder with the loss of their village, pigs and 
lives. 

I tried to find boys at the south-west corner of 
Santo, where the natives frequently descend to the 
shore. A neighbour of Mr. Ch., a young French- 
man, was going there in a small cutter to buy wood 
for dyeing mats to sell to the natives of Malekula, 
and he kindly took me with him. We sailed through 
the channel one rainy morning, but the wind died 



48 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

down and we had to anchor, as the current threatened 
to take us back. We profited by the stop to pay a 
visit to a Mr. R., who cultivated anarchistic principles, 
also a plantation which seemed in perfect condition 
and in direct opposition to his anti-capitalistic ideas. 
Mr. R. was one of those French colonists who, sprung 
from the poorest peasant stock, have no ambitions 
beyond finding a new and kindlier home. Economi- 
cal, thrifty, used to hard work in the fields, Mr. R. 
had begun very modestly, but had prospered, and 
was now, while still a young man, the owner of a 
plantation that would make him rich in a few years. 
This good, solid peasant stock, of which France 
possesses so much, makes the best colonists, and as a 
rule they succeed far better than those who come to 
the tropics with the idea of making a fortune in a few 
years without working for it. These fall into the 
hands of the big Noumea companies, and have the 
greatest trouble in getting out of debt. Not only do 
these firms lend money at exorbitant interest, but 
they stipulate that the planter will sell them all his 
produce and buy whatever he needs from them, and 
as they fix prices as they please, their returns are said 
to reach 2)0 per cent. 

Besides these two kinds of French settlers, there 
is a third, which comes from the penitentiary in 
Noumea or its neighbourhood. We shall meet 
specimens of these in the following pages. 

After having duly admired the plantation of Mr. 
R. — he proved himself a real peasant, knew every 
plant by name, and was constantly stopping to pick 



LIFE ON A PLANTATION 49 

a dead leaf or prune a shoot — we continued our 
journey and arrived at Tangoa. Tangoa is a small 
island, on which the Presbyterian mission has estab- 
lished a central school for the more intelligent of the 
natives of the whole group, where they may be 
trained as teachers. The exterior of this school looks 
most comfortable. One half of the island is cleared 
and covered with a green lawn, one part is pasture 
for good-looking cattle, the other is a park in which 
nestle the cottages of the teachers, — the whole looks 
like an English country-seat. At some distance is a 
neatly built, well-kept village for the native pupils. 
I presented an introduction to the director. He 
seemed to think my endeavours extremely funny, 
asked if I was looking for the missing link, etc., so 
that I took a speedy leave. 

We spent a few lazy days on board the little 
cutter ; the natives would not come down from their 
villages, in spite of frequent explosions of dynamite 
cartridges, the usual signal of recruiters to announce 
their arrival to the natives. It rained a good deal, 
and there was not much to do but to loaf on the 
beach. Here, one day, I saw an interesting method 
of fishing by poisoning the water, which is practised 
in many places. At low tide the natives rub a 
certain fruit on the stones of the reef, the juice mixes 
with the water in the pools and poisons the fish, so 
that after a short while they float senseless on the 
surface and may easily be caught. 

After a few days I was anxious to return to the 
Segond Channel, as I expected the arrival of the 
4 



50 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

English steamer, which I wanted to meet. I could 
not find any guide, and the cutter was to stay for some 
days longer, so I decided to go alone ; the distance 
was only about 15 km,, and I thought that with 
the aid of my compass I would find my way along 
the trail which was said to exist. 

I started in the morning with a few provisions 
and a dull bush-knife, at first along a fairly good 
path, which, however, soon divided into several 
tracks. I followed the one which seemed most likely 
to lead to my destination, but arrived at a deep 
lagoon, around which I had to make a long detour. 
Here the path came to a sudden stop in front of an 
impenetrable thicket of lianas which I could hardly 
cut with my knife. I climbed across fallen trunks, 
crawled along the ground beneath the creepers, struck 
an open spot once in a while, passed swamps and 
rocks, — in short, in a very little time I made an 
intimate acquaintance with the renowned Santo bush. 
Yet I imagined I was advancing nicely, so much so 
that I began to fear I had gone beyond my destina- 
tion. About four o'clock in the afternoon I struck a 
small river and followed its crooked course to the 
coast, so as to get my bearings. Great was my 
disappointment on finding myself only about i^ km. 
from the lagoon which I had left in the morning. 
This was a poor reward for eight hours' hard 
work. I was ashamed to return to the cutter, 
and followed the shore, not wishing to repeat that 
morning's experience in the forest. The walk along 
the beach was not agreeable at all, as it consisted of 



LIFE ON A PLANTATION 51 

those corroded coral rocks, full of sharp points and 
edges, and shaped like melted tin poured into water. 
These rocks were very jagged, full of crevices, in 
which the swell thundered and foamed, and over 
which I had to jump. Once I fell in, cut my legs 
and hands most cruelly and had only my luck to 
thank that I did not break any bones, and got safely 
out of the damp, dark prison. But at least I could 
see where I was, and that I was getting on, and I 
preferred this to the uncertain struggle in the forest. 
In some places the coast rose to a high bank, round 
which I could not walk, I had to climb up on one 
side as best I could and descend on the other with 
the help of trees and vines. Thus, fighting my way 
along, I was overtaken by the sudden tropical night, 
and I had to stop where I was for fear of falling into 
some hole. A fall would have been a real calamity, 
as nobody would ever have found me or even looked 
for me on that lonely coast. I therefore sat down 
where I was, on the corals where they seemed least 
pointed. I did not succeed at all in making a fire ; 
the night was quite dark and moonless, and a fine 
rain penetrated everything. I have rarely passed a 
longer night or felt so lonely. The new day revived 
my spirits, breakfast did not detain me long, as I had 
nothing to eat, so I kept along the shore, jumping 
and climbing, and had to swim through several 
lagoons, swarming, as I heard afterwards, with bi<T 
sharks ! After a while the coral shore changed into 
a sand beach, and after having waded for some hours 
more in the warm water with the little rags that were 



52 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

left of my boots, I arrived dead tired at the planta- 
tion of Mr. R. He was away, so I went to his 
neighbour's, who was at dinner and kindly asked me 
to join him. Although it was only a flying-fox, I 
enjoyed it as a man enjoys a meal after a twenty-four 
hours' fast. 

The men were just starting for Mr. Ch.'s, and took 
me with them. My adventure had taught me the 
impassableness of the forest, and after that experience 
I was never again tempted to make excursions 
without a guide. 



CHAPTER IV 
RECRUITING FOR NATIVES 

A FEW days later the English steamer came, bringing 
my luggage but no hope ot improvement in my dull 
existence. A French survey party arrived too, and 
set to work, but as they had not enough boys with 
them, I could not join them. I spent my days as well 
as I could, collected a few zoological specimens, and 
read Mr. Ch.'s large stock of French novels until I 
felt quite silly. 

At last an occasion offered to see primitive 
natives. George, the son of a neighbour, had agreed 
to go recruiting for Mr. Ch. As I have said before, 
providing sufficient labour is one of the most 
important problems to the planter in the New 
Hebrides. Formerly there were professional re- 
cruiters who went slave-hunting as they would have 
followed any other occupation, and sold the natives 
to the planters at a fair profit. In their schooners 
they hung about the shore, filled the natives with 
liquor and kidnapped them, or simply drove them 
on board wholesale, with the help of armed Loyalty 
boys. Their methods were as various as they were 
cruel, murder was a daily occurrence, and, of course, 
the recruiters were hated by the natives, who attacked 
and killed them whenever they got a chance. The 



54 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

better class of planters would not countenance this 
mode of procedure, and the natives are now ex- 
perienced enough not to enlist for work under a 
master they do not know. Also the English Govern- 
ment keeps a strict watch on the recruiting, so that 
the professional recruiter is dying out, and every 
planter has to go in search of hands for himself. 
But while the English Government keeps a sharp 
eye on these matters, the French Government is 
as lenient in this as in the question of the sale of 
alcohol, so that frequent kidnapping and many 
cruelties occur in the northern part of the group, and 
slavery still exists. I shall relate a few recruiting 
stories later on : some general remarks on the subject 
may not be amiss here. 

In years past the natives crowded the recruiting 
schooners by hundreds, driven by the greed for 
European luxuries, by desire for change, and in- 
experience ; to-day this is the case in but very few 
and savage districts. Generally the natives have 
some idea of what they may expect ; moreover, by 
trading with coprah they can buy all they need and 
want. They enlist nowadays from quite different 
motives. With young people it is the desire to travel 
and to "see the world," and to escape the strict 
village laws that govern them, especially in sexual 
matters, and to get rid of the supervision of the whole 
tribe. Sometimes, but only in islands poor in cocoa- 
nut trees, it is the desire to earn money to buy a 
woman, a very expensive article at present. Then 
many seek refuge in the plantations from persecution 




MAX FROM NITENUI, STA CRLZ, WITH ORNAMENTAL I5RKASTPLATE. 



RECRUITING FOR NATIVES 55 

of all sorts, from revenge, or punishment for some 
misdeed at home. Some are lovers who have run 
away from their tribe to escape the rage of an 
injured husband. Thus recruiting direcdy favours 
the general anarchy and immorality, and indirectly 
as well, since the recruiters do their best to create 
as much trouble as possible in the villages, knowing 
it will be to their advantage. If they hear of a feud 
raging between two tribes, they collect at the shore 
and try to pick up fugitives ; if there is no war, they 
do their best to occasion one, by intrigue, alcohol, 
or agents provocatetirs. They intoxicate men and 
women, and make them enlist in that condition ; 
young men are shown pretty women, and promised 
all the joys of Paradise in the plantations. If these 
tricks fail, the recruiters simply kidnap men and 
women while bathing. This may suffice to show 
that, as a rule, they do not use fair means to find 
hands, and it is hardly surprising that where they 
have been they leave behind them wrecked families, 
unhappiness, enmity, murder and a deep hatred of 
the white man in general as the cause of all this 
misery. This recruiting is not only immoral in the 
highest degree, but also very harmful to the race, and 
it is to-day one of the principal reasons for its decay. 

Those planters who from principle or from fear 
of the law do not resort to such means generally 
have a special recruiting district, where they are well 
known, and where the natives know the treatment 
they are likely to get on the plantation, and feel sure 
they will not be cheated, and will be taken back 



56 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

to their homes in due time. These planters, I am 
happy to say, find hands enough, as a rule, while the 
natives take care not to go to a French plantation if 
they can help it. The system of recruiting is very 
simple. The cutter anchors at some distance off- 
shore, and a dynamite cartridge is exploded to 
announce her arrival ; some time afterwards one of 
the whale-boats goes ashore, all the crew armed to the 
teeth, while the other boat lies a short distance off, 
to watch the natives, and to cover the retreat of 
those in the first boat in case of attack. The planter, 
as a rule, stays on board his cutter. These warlike 
practices are really unnecessary in many places, but 
as one never knows what indiscretions the last 
recruiter may have committed, and as the natives 
consider all whites as belonging to one organization, 
it is the part of prudence to follow this old recruiting 
rule. 

I will not pretend to say that the natives will 
never attack without provocation. Even Cook, who 
certainly was both careful and just, was treacherously 
attacked in Erromanga, for the Melanesian is blood- 
thirsty, especially when he thinks himself the 
stronger. But to-day it may be stated as a certainty 
that no attack on a recruiting-ship or on any white 
man occurs without some past brutality on the part 
of a European to account for it. As one of the 
Governments does nothing to abolish kidnapping, and 
as the plantations go to ruin for want of labour, it 
would be to the interest both of the settlers and of 
the natives to abolish the present recruiting system 



RECRUITING FOR NATIVES 57 

entirely, and to introduce a conscription for work in 
its place, so that each male would have to work for a 
term of years on a plantation for adequate wages and 
crood treatment. This would be of advantacre to the 
islanders even more than to the planters. It would 
create order, and would employ the natives in useful 
work for the development of their own country. 

It will appear from all this that recruiting is still 
a somewhat dangerous undertaking, especially on the 
north-west coast of Malekula, the home of the most 
primitive and savage tribes of all the group. 

George, our captain, was a strange fellow, about 
seventeen years of age : he might just as well have 
been forty. Pale, with small grey eyes and a 
suspicious look, a long hooked nose, and narrow, yet 
hanging lips, he walked with bent back and crooked 
knees, always bare-footed, in blue dungaree trousers, 
green shirt and an old weather-beaten hat. He 
hardly ever spoke ; when he did, it was very 
suddenly, very fast and very low, so that no one 
could understand him except his boys, who evidently 
knew instinctively what he meant. The natives 
are very clever in these matters. He was brave, an 
excellent sailor for his age, and he knew the channels 
and all the anchorages. His boat may have been 
6 or 7 metres long and 3 metres wide ; she was 
cutter-rigged, and was probably very suitable for 
a trip of a few days, but quite insufficient for a 
cruise of several weeks, such as we were planning. 
The deck was full of cases of provisions, so that only 
a little space was clear for us at the stern. The 



58 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

cabin was about 2 metres long, ih m^tre wide, 
and 1 1 metre high, and was crammed with stuff 
— tinned meats, cloths, guns, trading goods, etc. 
One person could wriggle in it, crawling on hands 
and knees, but two had to wind round each other 
in impossible positions, and it was quite unthink- 
able that both should spend the night below. But 
with the happy carelessness and impatience of a 
long - delayed start, we did not think of the 
hardships of the future, and in fair weather, when 
the stay on deck in the brisk breeze was extremely 
pleasant, as on that first morning, existence on board 
seemed very bearable ; but when it rained, and it 
rained very often and very hard, it was exceptionally 
disagreeable. 

Mr. George took no interest in such details. 
Although he could have improved matters without 
much trouble, he was too lazy to take the trouble. 
The sun- and rain-sail was fixed so low that one could 
not stand upright, and anyone who has experienced 
this for some time knows how irritating it is. For 
food George did not seem to care at all. Not only 
did he lack the sense of taste, but he seemed to have 
an unhuman stomach, for he ate everything, at any 
time, and in any condition ; raw or cooked, digestible 
or not, he swallowed it silently and greedily, and 
thought it quite unnecessary when I wanted the boys 
to cook some rice for me, or to wash a plate. The 
tea was generally made with brackish water which 
was perfectly sickening. George had always just 
eaten when I announced that dinner was ready, and 



RECRUITING FOR NATIVES 59 

for answer he generally wrapped himself in his 
blankets and fell asleep. The consequence was that 
each of us lived his own life, and the companionship 
which might have made up for many insufficiencies on 
board was lacking entirely. 

It was the first sunny day after many rainy ones 
when the current carried us through the channel. 
When we got on too slowly the oars had to help. 
After several hours we arrived in the open, and a 
fresh breeze carried us quickly alongside the small 
islands of Aore, Tutuba and Malo. Blue, white- 
crested waves lifted us up so high that we could look 
far over the foaming sea, and again we sank down in 
a valley, out of which we could only see the nearest 
waves rolling threateningly towards us. Behind us 
the little dinghy shot down the swells, gliding on 
the water like a duck. In the late afternoon we 
approached the north point of Malekula, and followed 
the west coast southward, towards the country of the 
" Biof Nambas" — our destination. Contrastino- with 
other islands of the archipelago, Malekula does not 
seem densely covered with vegetation at this point. 
We do not see much of the impenetrable bush, but 
rather a scanty growth of grass on the coral reefs, a 
few shrubs and she-oaks, then a narrow belt of forest 
covering the steep cliffs and sides of the hills, on 
whose backs we find extensive areas covered with 
reed-grass. Even a luxuriant forest does not look 
gay on a dull day, and this barren landscape looked 
most inhospitable in the grey mist of the afternoon. 
We slowly followed a coast of ragged coral patches, 



6o WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

alternating with light sand beaches. Towards nightfall 
we anchored near a stony shore, flanked by two high 
cliffs, in about lo fathoms of the most transparent 
water. We could see in the depths the irregular 
shapes of the rocks, separated by white sand, and the 
soft mysterious colours in which the living coral 
shines like a giant carpet. The sea was quiet as a 
pond, yet we were on the shores of that endless ocean 
that reaches westward to the Torres Straits. 

Torn clouds floated across the hills towards the 
north-west, the stars shone dull, and it was very 
lonely and oppressively silent, nowhere was there a 
trace of life, human or animal. Lying on deck, I 
listened to the sound of the surf breaking in the 
different little bays near and far, in a monotonous 
measure, soft and yet irresistible. It is the voice of 
the sea in its cleansing process, the continual grinding 
and casting out of all impurities, the eternal war 
against the land and its products, and the final 
destruction of the earth itself. 

The district of the Big Nambas, to whose shores 
we had come, takes its name from the size of a certain 
article of dress, the " Nambas," which partly replaces 
our trousers, and is worn in different forms over the 
greater part of the archipelago, but nowhere of such 
size as here. It is such an odd object that it may 
well give its name to the country. Big Nambas is 
still the least known part of the islands, and hardly 
any white has ever set foot in the interior. Unlike 
those of other districts, the natives here have pre- 
served their old habits and strict organization, and this 




A CANNIBAL 1- KOM VAC, N'AMliAS, WTIII M )SK-STICK. 



RECRUITING FOR NATIVES 6i 

is evidently the reason why they have not degenerated 
and decayed. The old chiefs are still as powerful as 
ever, and preserve peace and order, while they them- 
selves do as they please. Big Nambas has had but 
little contact with the whites, especially the recruiters, 
so that the population is not demoralized, nor the 
chiefs power undermined. Of course it is to the 
chiefs interest to have as strong a tribe as possible, 
and they reserve to themselves the right of killing 
offenders, and take all revenge in their own hands. 
They watch the women and prevent child-murder and 
such things, and although their reign is one of terror, 
their influence, as a whole, on the race is not bad, 
because they suppress many vices that break out as 
soon as they slacken their severity. The chiefs in 
Big Nambas seem to have felt this, and system- 
atically opposed the intercourse with whites. But 
this district is just where the best workmen come 
from, and the population is densest, and that is 
why the recruiters have tried again and again of 
late years to get hold of Big Nambas, but with 
little success, for so far only few men have enlisted. 
One of them was on our cutter, and had to serve 
as interpreter. The other four of the five boys were 
from Malekula, a little farther south. Our man 
from Big Nambas was known on the plantation as 
Bourbaki, and had enlisted two years ago. Before 
that he had been professional murderer and provider 
of human flesh to the sfreat chief. Now he was a 
useful and quiet foreman on the plantation, always 
cheerful, very intelligent, strong, brutal, with small, 



62 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

shrewd eyes and a big mouth, apparendy quite happy 
in civiHzation, and devoted to George. He was one 
of the few natives who openly admitted his Hking for 
human flesh, and rapturously described its incom- 
parable tenderness, whiteness and delicacy. A year 
ago, when visiting his village, he had been incon- 
solable because he had come a day late for a cannibal 
feast, and had blamed his father bitterly for not having 
saved a piece for him. Aside from this ghoulish pro- 
pensity, Bourbaki was a thoroughly nice fellow, oblig- 
ing, reliable and as happy as a child at the prospect 
of seeing his father again. We expected good service 
and help in recruiting from him, and promised him 
ample head-money. 

Bourbaki had run away without the permission of 
his chief, who was furious at the loss of his best man, 
and had given orders to kill the recruiter, a brother- 
in-law of George. Some natives had ambushed and 
shot at them while entering the whale-boat ; the white 
had received several wounds, and a native woman 
had been killed. The boat pulled away rapidly. 
Bourbaki laughed, and, indeed, by this time the little 
incident was quite forgotten, as its only victim had 
been a woman. 

The morning was damp and dull. The hills came 
down to the sea in slopes of grey-green, the shore 
was a soft brown, and the rocks lay in dark patches on 
the beach, separated from the greyish -green of the 
sea by the white line of the breakers. The hollow 
sound of the dynamite explosions glided along the 
slopes and was swallowed in distant space. 



RECRUITING FOR NATIVES 63 

A few hours later, thinking the natives might be 
coming, we got our arms ready : each of us had a 
revolver and a repeating rifle, the boys had old 
Sniders. The cutter lay about 200 metres off- 
shore, and we could see everything that was going 
on on the beach. Behind the flat, stony shore the 
forest-covered hills rose in a steep cliff to a table- 
land about 100 metres high. On the water we 
were in perfect safety, for the villages lie far inland, 
and the Big Nambas are no sailors, hate the sea and 
possess no canoes. They only come to the beach 
occasionally, to get a few crabs and shell-fish, yet 
each tribe has its own place on the shore, where no 
stranger is admitted. 

We took Bourbaki ashore ; he was very anxious 
to go home, and promptly disappeared in the bush, 
his Snider on his shoulder. We then returned to 
the cutter and waited. It is quite useless to be in 
a hurry when recruiting, but one certainly needs a 
supply of patience, for the natives have no idea of the 
value of time, and cannot understand the rush which 
our civilization has created. 

Late in the afternoon a few naked figures appeared 
on the beach. One of them signalled with a branch, 
and soon others followed, till about fifty men had 
assembled, and in the background, half-hidden by 
shrubs, stood half a dozen women. We entered the 
whale-boats, two boys and a white man in each, and 
slowly approached the shore. All the natives carried 
their rifles in their right hands and yams in their left, 
making signs to show that they wished to trade. 



64 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

We gave them to understand that they must first put 
down their muskets, and when they hesitated we 
cocked our rifles and waited. Some of them went 
back to the forest and laid down their guns, while the 
others sat down at a distance and watched. We 
promptly put down our rifles, approached and showed 
our trade-goods — tobacco, matches, clay pipes and 
calico. Hesitating, suspicious, yet tempted, they 
crowded round the boat and offered their yams, 
excitedly shouting and gesticulating, talking and 
laughing. They had quite enormous yams, which 
they traded for one or two sticks of tobacco or as 
many pipes. Matches and calico were not much in 
demand. Our visitors were mostly well-built, medium- 
sized men of every age, and looked very savage and 
dangerous. They were nearly naked, but for a belt 
of bark around their waists, about 20 cm. wide, 
which they wore wound several times around their 
bodies, so that it stood out like a thick ring. Over 
this they had bound narrow ribbons of braided fibres, 
dyed in red patterns, the ends of the ribbons falling 
down in large tassels. Under this belt is stuck the 
end of the enormous nambas, also consisting of red 
grass fibres. Added to this scanty dress are small 
ornaments, tortoise-shell ear-rings, bamboo combs, 
bracelets embroidered with rings of shell and cocoa- 
nut, necklaces, and thin bands bound under the knees 
and over the ankles. 

The beautiful, lithe, supple bodies support a 
head covered with long, curly hair, and the face is 
framed by a long and fairly well-kept beard. The 



RECRUITING FOR NATIVES 65 

eyes roll unsteadily, and their dark and penetrating 
look is in no wise softened by the brown colouring 
of the scela. The nose is only slightly concave, 
the sides are large and thick, and their width is 
increased by a bamboo or stone cylinder stuck through 
the septum. Both nose and eyes are overhung by a 
thick torus. The upper lip is generally short and 
rarely covers the mouth, which is exceptionally large 
and wide, and displays a set of teeth of remarkable 
strength and perfection. The whole body is covered 
with a thick layer of greasy soot. Such is the 
appearance of the modern man-eater. 

Just at first we did not feel any too comfortable 
or anxious to go ashore, and we watched our neigh- 
bours very carefully. They, however, were hardly 
less frightened and suspicious ; but after a while, 
through the excitement of trading, they became more 
confident, forgot their suspicions and bargained 
noisily, as happy as a crowd of boys ; still, any violent 
movement on our part startled them. For instance, 
several of them started to run for the woods when I 
hastily grabbed a pipe that a roll of the boat had set 
slipping off the seat. 

After having filled the boats to the brim with 
yams, and the first eagerness of bartering over, we 
ventured ashore. A suspicious crowd stood around 
us and watched every movement. We first showed 
them our weapons, and a violent smacking of the lips 
and lonor-drawn whistles, or a ofruntingf " Whau ! " 
bespoke a gratifying degree of admiration and 
wonder. The longer the cartridges and the larsfer 



66 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

the bullets, the more they impressed them, and our 
revolvers were glanced at with contempt and a shrug 
of the shoulders, expressing infinite disdain, until each 
of us shot a few rounds. Then they winced, started 
to run away, came back and laughed boisterously 
over their own fright ; but after that they had more 
respect for our " little guns." 

Soon they became more daring, came closer and 
began to feel us, first touching us lightly with the 
finger-tips, then with their hands. They wanted to 
look at and handle everything, cartridge-belts, pipes, 
hats and clothes. When all these had been ex- 
amined, they investigated our persons, and to me, at 
least, not being used to this, it was most disagreeable. 
I did not mind when they tucked up our sleeves and 
trousers and compared the whiteness and softness of 
our skin with their own dark hide, nor when they 
softly and caressingly stroked the soft skin on the 
inner side of our arms and legs, vigorously smacking 
their lips the while ; but when they began to feel the 
tenderness and probably the delicacy of our muscles, 
and tried to estimate our fitness for a royal repast, 
muttering deep grunts, constantly smacking their lips, 
and evidently highly satisfied with the result of their 
investigation, I did not enjoy the situation any more ; 
still less when I saw an ugly-looking fellow trembling 
violently from greedy desire, rolling his eyes in wild 
exultation and performing an anticipatory cannibal 
dinner-dance. We gradually began to shake off this 
wearisomely intimate crowd ; the fact that there were 
two of us, and that I was not alone in this situation 



RECRUITING FOR NATIVES ey 

was very comforting. However, in the course of the 
next few years I became accustomed to this treat- 
ment, though I never again met it in such crudeness. 

We had slowly approached the forest and could 
get a few glimpses of the women, who had kept 
quite in the background and hid still more when we 
came near. They had braided aprons around their 
waists and rolled mats on their heads. Nearly all 
of them carried babies on their hips, and they looked 
fairly healthy, although the children were full of 
sores. Evidently the men did not like our looking 
at the ladies ; they pushed us back and drove the 
women away. We returned to the boats, and the 
natives retired too, howlingr shrieking- and laughinof. 
Towards evening another crowd arrived, and the 
performance was repeated in every detail. Happy 
over the bartered goods, they began to dance, first 
decorating themselves with tall branches stuck in the 
back of their belts. They jumped from one foot to 
the other, sometimes turning round, and singing in a 
rough, deep monotone. We withdrew to the boats, 
and they dispersed on the shore, lighted fires and 
roasted the yams they had left. 

Far away across the sea there was lightning, the 
surf boomed more heavily than by day, the cutter 
rolled more violently and restlessly and the whale- 
boat scraped against her sides, while the wind roared 
through the forest gullies and thunder threatened 
behind the hills. We felt lonely in the thick dark- 
ness, with the tempest approaching steadily, afloat on 
a tiny shell, alone against the fury of the elements. 



68 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

The lamp was blown out, and we lay on deck listen- 
ing to the storm, until a heavy squall drove us below, 
to spend the night in a stuffy atmosphere, in uncom- 
fortable positions, amid wild dreams. Next morning 
there were again about twenty men on the shore, 
and again the same performances were gone through. 
Evidently the people, influenced by Bourbaki, who 
was still in the village, were more confident, and left 
their weapons behind of their own accord. They 
came to trade, and when their provisions of yam were 
exhausted, most of them left ; only a few, mostly 
young fellows, wanted to stay, but some older men 
stayed with them, so as to prevent them from going 
on board and enlisting. Evidently the young men 
were attracted by all our wonderful treasures, and 
would have liked to see the country where all these 
things came from. They imagined the plantations 
must be very beautiful places, while the old men 
had vague notions to the contrary, and were afraid 
of losing their young braves. 

During a lull in the proceedings we climbed the 
narrow, steep and slippery path up to the tableland 
in order to get an idea of the country behind the hills. 
Half-way up we met two old men carrying yam down 
to the beach. They were terrified at sight of us, 
began to tremble, stopped and spoke to us excitedly. 
We immediately laid down our rifles, and signed to 
them to approach, but they suddenly dropped their 
loads, ran off and disappeared in the bush. They 
evidently feared we had come to kidnap them, and 
we decided it was wiser to return to the beach, so 



RECRUITING FOR NATIVES 69 

as not to irritate the people. Shortly afterwards 
another crowd of natives came along the beach 
carrying yam. They approached with extreme care, 
ready to fight or liy, but they were less afraid of us 
than of the natives, for whom that part of the beach 
was reserved, and with whom we had been trading. 
They were enemies of the newcomers, who knew 
that they were outside their own territory and might 
expect an attack any moment. Squatting down near 
us, they anxiously watched the forest, ever ready to 
jump up. One of them, who spoke a little biche la 
mar, came up to me and asked me to anchor that 
night near their beach, and buy yams from them, 
which we promised to do. At a sound in the forest 
they jumped up and ran away. George, wishing to 
talk more with them, took his rifle and ran after 
them, but they had already retreated behind some 
boulders, and were waving their rifles and signalling 
him to stay where he was. They thought we were 
in a plot with other natives, and had ambushed them. 
To such a degree do these people live in constant fear, 
and thus arise misunderstandings which end in death, 
unless the whites are very prudent and quiet. Many 
a recruiter in our case would have welcomed this 
apparent provocation to shoot at the natives from a 
safe distance with his superior rifle. 

All day it rained in heavy squalls, coming from 
over the hills ; everything was damp, the night was 
dark and still and we sis^hed in our narrow cell of a 
cabin. Next morning Bourbaki came back with a 
new crowd of natives, who again felt and investigated, 



70 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

happily, also, admired us. So vain is human-kind that 
even the admiration of cannibals is agreeable. I let 
some of them try my shot-gun, and everyone wanted 
to attempt the feat, although they were all badly 
frightened. They held the gun at arm's length, 
turned their faces away and shot at random ; it was 
clear that very few knew how to shoot, and that 
their Sniders could be of use only at short range. 
This is confirmed by the fact that all their murders 
are done point-blank. 

Bourbaki brought news that in a few days there 
was to be a great sacrificial feast in the village, and 
that, everybody being busy preparing for it, we had 
no chance of recruiting, neither could we see the 
great chief, he being shut up in his house, invisible 
to everybody except to a little boy, his servant. 
We landed a goat for Bourbaki's father ; the innocent 
animal caused terrible fright and great admiration. 
All the men retreated behind trunks or rocks and no 
one dared touch the strange creature. Bourbaki was 
very proud of himself for knowing goats, and fastened 
the poor little thing to a tree in the shade. He then 
coaxed three old men on board. Clumsily they 
entered the whale-boats, and even on board the 
cutter they squatted anxiously down and dared 
hardly move for fear the ship might capsize or they 
might slip into the water, of which they were quite 
afraid. They could hardly speak, and stared at 
everything, wide-eyed and open-mouthed. They for- 
got their fears, however, in delight over our posses- 
sions. A saucepan proved a joy ; the boards and 




/M I 



RECRUITING FOR NATIVES 71 

planks of the ship were touched and admired amid 
much smacking of the hps ; a devout " Whau ! " was 
elicited by the sight of the cabin, which seemed a 
fairy palace to them. Smaller things they approved 
of by whistling ; in general they behaved very 
politely. If they did not understand the use of a 
thing, they shrugged their shoulders with a grimace 
of contempt. A mirror was useless to them at first ; 
after a while they learned to see ; they were frightened, 
and at last they roared with laughter, put out their 
tongues, admired their sooty faces and began to pull 
out their bristles, for they all wore their upper lips 
shaved. Naturally, they confused right and left, 
and became entirely bewildered. A watch did not 
impress them ; the ticking seemed mysterious and 
not quite innocent, and they put the instrument away 
at a safe distance. They asked to see some money, 
but were much disappointed, having imagined it 
would look bigger and more imposing. They pre- 
ferred a little slip of paper, which they carefully hid 
in their belts. Our stock of cartridges impressed 
them deeply, and there was no end of whistling and 
grunting. Sugar and tea were objects of suspicion. 
They thought them poison, and took some along, 
probably to experiment on a good friend or a woman. 
Matches were stuck into the hair, the beard or the per- 
forated ears. Pictures were quite incomprehensible. 

After an hour they left, less frightened than 
before, but still very glad to leave all the mysterious 
and uncanny things behind. Bourbaki made fun of 
their innocence, and thought himself very civilized, 



72 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

but he himself was dreadfully afraid of my camera : 
" White man he savee too much." 

The weather cleared towards eveningf. Some 
natives stayed on the shore all night, lighted fires 
and sang songs in anticipation of the coming dance. 
Our boys mimicked them, laughed at them and felt 
very superior, though we whites failed to see much 
difference, and, as a matter of fact, a short time after 
having returned home these boys can hardly be told 
from ordinary bushmen. The shrieks of the savages 
pierced the velvet of the night like daggers, but by 
and by they quieted down, and we heard nothing 
more but the rhythmic rise and fall of the surf. 

In the silver liorht of the rising moon the boats 
rolled gendy behind the ship like dark spots, and 
light clouds glided westward across the stars, 
eternally rising behind the black cliffs and dis- 
appearing in the universal dimness. We were 
asleep on deck, when suddenly a violent shower 
woke us up and banished us into that terrible cabin. 

No natives came next day ; they were all busy 
preparing the feast. We had nothing to do but to 
loaf on the beach or on board, and smoke, as we had 
no fishing-tackle and no animals to shoot. The grey 
sky, the vague light, the thin rain, were depressing, 
and all sorts of useless thoughts came to us. We 
noticed the hardships of our existence on board, felt 
that we were wasting- time, o^rew irritable and dis- 
satisfied. If only my companion had been less sulky ! 
But with him there could be no pleasant chat, no 
cosy evening hour over a cup of tea and a pipe ; and 



RECRUITING FOR NATIVES 73 

I would almost have preferred being alone to this 
solitude a daix. I sat on deck and listened to the 
breakers. Often they sounded like a rushing express 
train and awakened reminiscences of travel and 
movement. The cool wind blew softly from afar, 
and I could understand for the first time that longing 
that asks the winds for news of home and friends. I 
gave myself up wholly to this vague dreaming, call 
it home-sickness, or what you will, it enlivened the 
oppressive colourlessness of the days and the loneli- 
ness of the nights. As usual, a heavy shower came, 
luckily, perhaps, to interrupt all softer thoughts. 

Then followed a few clear days, which changed 
our mood entirely. The cutter rolled confidingly in 
the morning breeze, and the sun glowed warm and 
golden. In picturesque cascades the green forest 
seemed to rush down the slopes to the bright coral 
beach, on which the sea broke playfully. Once in a 
while a bird called far off in the depths of the woods. 
It was delicious to lie on the warm beach and be 
dried and roasted by the sun, to think of nothing in 
particular, but just to exist. Two wild pigs came to 
the beach in the evening to dig for yam that the 
natives had buried there ; a chase, though unsuccess- 
ful, gave excitement and movement. We could 
venture far inland now without fear, for the natives 
were all away at the feast. Brilliant sunsets closed 
the days in royal splendour. Behind a heavy cloud- 
bank which hid the sun, he seemed to melt in the 
sea and to form one golden element. Out of the 
cloud five yellow rays shot across the steel-blue 



74 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

sky, so that it looked like one of those old-fashioned 
engravings of God behind a cloud. When every- 
thing had melted into one gorgeous fire, and we were 
still helpless before all that glory, the colours faded 
away to the most delicate combinations of half-tones ; 
soon the stars came out glittering on the deep sky, first 
of all the Southern Cross. Halley's comet was still 
faintly visible. 

In the morning the sky was cloudless, and 
changed from one lovely colour to the other, until the 
sun rose to give it its bright blue and paint the shore 
in every tint. Then every stone at the bottom of the 
sea was visible, and all the marvellous coral forma- 
tions, with their weird shapes and fiery colours, 
glowed in rose and violet and pure golden yellow. 
Above lay big sea-stars, and large fish in bright hues 
floated between the cliffs in soft, easy movements, 
while bright blue little ones shot hither and thither 
like mad. 

Bourbaki arrived with his younger brother, a neat 
and gentle-looking boy. The feast was to begin that 
evening, and I asked Bourbaki if they had plenty 
of pigs to eat. "Oh no," he said; "but that is of 
no importance : we have a man to eat ! Yesterday 
we killed him in the bush, and to-day we will eat 
him." He said this with the most innocent ex- 
pression, as if he were talking about the weather. 
I had to force myself not to draw away from him, 
and looked somewhat anxiously into his face ; but 
Bourbaki stared quietly into the distance, as if 
dreaming of the past excitements and the coming 



RECRUITING FOR NATIVES 75 

delights ; then he picked up a cocoa-nut and tore the 
husk off with his strong teeth. It made me shudder 
to watch his brutish movements, but he was perfectly 
happy that morning, willing and obedient. At noon 
he went away to his horrid feast, and for two days we 
saw nobody. 

We passed the time as usual ; the weather was 
rainy again, and everything seemed grey, — the sky, 
the sea and the shore, and our mood. One is so 
dependent on surroundings. 

On the third day Bourbaki came back, a little 
tired, but evidently satisfied. Some of his friends 
accompanied him, and he brought word that the chief 
had given permission for a few boys to enlist, but 
that we would have to wait about ten days until he 
could come to the shore himself. Not wishing to 
spend the ten days there, doing absolutely nothing, 
we decided to go farther south, to Tesbel Bay, and 
try our luck at recruiting there, as we had another 
boy, Macao, from that district. George gave leave 
to Bourbaki, who had been somewhat savage these 
last days, to stay at home till our return, and he 
seemed delighted to have a holiday. We were all 
the more surprised when, just before we weighed 
anchor, Bourbaki came back, shaking hands without 
a word. We were quite touched by this remarkable 
sign of his affection, pardoned his many objectionable 
ways, and never thought that perhaps he might have 
ample reason not to feel altogether safe and comfort- 
able at home. 

The wind being contrary, we had to tack about 



76 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

all night long without advancing. Squalls rushed 
over the water, and then, again, the breeze died down 
completely, only black, jagged clouds drifted west- 
ward across the sky, and here and there a few stars 
were visible. The cutter's deck was crowded with 
stuff, and there seemed less room for us than ever, 
except in the hateful cabin. The boys sang monoton- 
ously "for wind," quite convinced that the next 
breeze would be due to their efforts. A fat old man 
sang all night long in falsetto in three notes ; it was 
unbearably silly and irritating, yet one could hardly 
stop the poor devil and rob him of his only pleasure 
in that dark night. We felt damp, restless and 
sleepless, and tried in vain to find some comfort. 
Next evening we reached the entrance of Tesbel Bay, 
and the wind having died down, we had to work our 
way in with the oars, a slow and hard task. Bourbaki 
yelled and pulled at the oars with all his might, 
encouraging the others. These are the joys of 
sailing. 

Tesbel Bay is framed on two sides by high cliffs. 
Big boulders lie in picturesque confusion where the 
surf foams white against the narrow beach. Wher- 
ever there is a foot of ground, luxurious vegetation 
thrives. Ahead of us lies a level valley that stretches 
far inland to the foot of a high mountain, whose head 
is lost in grey clouds. A little creek runs into the 
bay through high reed-grass, behind a sandbank. 
Just before setting, the sun shone through the clouds 
and smiled on the lovely, peaceful landscape, seeming 
to promise us a pleasant stay. The smoke of many 



RECRUITING FOR NATIVES yj 

villaofe fires rose out of the bush at a distance. Two 
ragged natives were loafing on the beach, and I 
engaged one of them for the next day, to guide me to 
some villages. Bourbaki and Macao marched gaily 
off, as they were to spend the night in Macao's 
village. 

Next morning, while being pulled ashore for my 
excursion inland, I saw Macao on the beach, crying, 
wavino; and behavino- like a madman. He called 
out that Bourbaki was dead, and that we must come 
to the village. I took him into the boat and we 
returned to the cutter. Macao was trembling all 
over, uttering wild curses, sighing and sobbing like 
a child. Between the fingers of his left hand he 
frantically grasped his cartridges, and nervously kept 
hold of his old rifle. We could not get much out of 
him ; all we could make out was that Bourbaki had 
been shot towards morning and that he himself had 
run away. We guessed that Bourbaki must have 
committed some misdemeanour ; as there was a 
possibility of his still being alive, we decided to go 
and look for him ; for satisfaction it was idle to hope. 

According to Macao the village was quite near, 
so we took our rifles, armed the boys, and in ten 
minutes we were ashore. The youngest, a fourteen- 
year-old boy, was left in the whale-boat, so as to be 
ready to pick us up in case of need. His elder 
brother, a tall, stout fellow, also preferred to stay in 
the boat ; we left him behind, and this left five of us 
for the expedition. Macao showed us the way, and 
as we followed him we watched ricrht and left for a 



78 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

possible ambush. It was a disagreeable moment 
when we dived into the thicket, where we expected 
to be attacked any moment, and I could hardly blame 
another fat boy for dropping behind, too, to "watch 
the shore," as he said. Not wishing to lose any time, 
we let him go, for we were anxious to be in the 
villap-e before the natives should have time to rally 
and prepare for resistance. 

The path was miserable — slippery slopes, wildly 
knotted roots, stones, creeks and high reeds. We 
were kept quite busy enough watching our path, and 
were not careful at all about watching the bush ; but 
we were confident that the natives, being very poor 
shots, would betray their presence by a random shot. 
We were exposed, of course, to shots from close 
quarters alongside the path, but we trusted to Macao's 
sharp eyes to detect a hidden enemy. After an 
hour's brisk walk, we asked Macao whether the 
village was still far off; every time we asked, his 
answer was the same : " Bim by you me catch him," 
or, "Him he close up." However, after an hour and 
a half, we began to feel worried. We had no idea 
whether we would find a peaceful village or an armed 
tribe, and in the latter case a retreat would doubtless 
have been fatal, owing to the long distance we would 
have had to go in the forest, where the white man is 
always at a disadvantage. But we had undertaken 
the adventure, and we had to see it through. 

After two hours we unexpectedly came upon 
a villao-e. A dozen men and a few women were 
squatting about, evidently expecting some event. 



RECRUITING FOR NATIVES 79 

The presence of the women was a sign that the 
people were peacefully inclined. An old man, a 
relative of Macao's, joined us, and a short walk 
through a gully brought us quite suddenly into a 
village square. About thirty men were awaiting us, 
armed with rifles and clubs, silent and shy. Macao 
spoke to them, whereupon they laid down their rifles 
and led us to a hut, where we found Bourbaki, lying 
on his back, dead. He had been sitting in the house 
when some one shot him from behind ; he had 
jumped up and tried to fly, but had broken down and 
fallen where he was then lying. He must have died 
almost at once, as the bullet had torn a great hole 
in his body. His rifle and cartridges were missing, 
that was all. 

The villagers stood around us, talking excitedly ; 
we could not understand them, but they were 
evidently not hostile, and we told them to bury 
Bourbaki. They began at once, digging a hole in 
the soft earth with pointed sticks. We then asked 
for the rifle, the cartridges and the murderer, and 
were informed that two men had done the killine. 
After some deliberation a number of men walked off, 
one of them a venerable old man, armed after the old 
fashion with a bow and a handful of poisoned arrows, 
which he handled with deliberate care ; he also 
carried a club in a sling over his shoulder. Of all 
those strong men, this old one seemed to me the 
most dangerous but also the most beautiful and the 
most genuine. After a while they returned, and two 
other men slunk in and stood apart. 



8o WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

The natives seemed undecided what to do, and 
squatted about, talking among themselves, until at 
last one of them pulled me by the sleeve and led us 
towards the two newcomers. We understood that 
they were the murderers, and each of us took hold of 
one of them. They made no resistance, but general 
excitement arose in the crowd, all the other natives 
shouting and gesticulating, even threatening each 
other with their rifles. They were split in two 
parties, — one that wanted to give up the murderers, 
and their relatives, who wanted to keep them. We 
told them that the affair would be settled if they gave 
up the murderers ; if not, the man-of-war would come 
and punish the whole village. As my prisoner tried 
to get loose, I bound him, and while I was busy with 
this I heard a shot. Seeing that all the men had 
their rifles ready, I expected the fight to begin, but 
George told me his prisoner had escaped and he had 
shot after him. The man had profited by George's 
indecision to run away. 

This actual outbreak of the hostilities excited the 
people so that we thought it best to retire, taking our 
single prisoner with us. A few of the natives followed 
us, and when we left the village the relatives of the 
murderer broke out in violent wailing and weeping, 
thinking, as did the prisoner, Beini, himself, that we 
were going to eat him up, after having tortured him 
to death. Belni trembled all over, was very gentle 
and inclined to weep like a punished child, but quite 
resigned and not even offering any resistance. He 
only asked Macao anxiously what we were going to do 



RECRUITING FOR NATIVES 8 1 

with him. Macao, furious at the death of his comrade, 
for whom he seemed to have felt real affection, put him 
in mortal fear, and was quite determined to avenge 
his murdered friend. We shut Belni up in the hold 
of the cutter and told the natives that they would 
have to hand over Bourbaki's rifle and cartridges, and 
pay us two tusked pigs by noon of the next day. 

On this occasion we learned the reason for the 
murder : Belni's brother had had an intrigue with the 
wife of the chief, and had been condemned by the latter 
to pay a few pigs. Being too poor to do this, he decided 
to pay his debt in an old-fashioned way by killing a 
man, and Bourbaki was unlucky enough to arrive just 
at the right time, and being a man from a distant 
district, there was no revenge to be feared. Belni, 
therefore, chose him as his victim. The two brothers 
chatted all night with him and Macao, and asked to 
see Bourbaki's rifle, which he carelessly handed to 
them. When, towards morning, Macao left them for 
a few moments, they profited by the opportunity to 
shoot Bourbaki from behind, and to run away. 
Macao, rushing back, found his friend dead, and fled 
to the shore. By this deed the wrong to the chief 
was supposed to be made good — a very peculiar prac- 
tice in native justice. It may be a remnant of old 
head-hunting traditions, inasmuch as Belni's brother 
would have given the dead man's head to the chief 
in payment, this being even more valuable than pigs. 

The first excitement over, our boys were seized by 
fear, even Macao and the other one who had accom- 
panied us. Although they were in perfect safety on 
6 



82 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

board the cutter they feared all sorts of revenge from 
Belni's relatives, — for instance, that they might cause a 
storm and wreck the cutter. We laughed at them, 
but they would not be cheered up, and, after all, 
Macao's horrible dread that his old father was surely 
being eaten up by this time in the village was not 
quite groundless. We were not in the brightest of 
humours ourselves, as this event had considerably 
lessened our chances of recruiting at Big Nambas ; 
the chief made us responsible for Bourbaki's death, 
and asked an indemnity which we could hardly pay, 
except with the tusked pigs we demanded here. 

We could not stay longer in Tesbel Bay, as our 
boys were too much frightened, and the natives might 
turn against us at any moment. We could hardly get 
the boys to go ashore for water and firewood, for fear 
of an ambush. In the evening we fetched Belni out 
of the hold. He was still doleful and ready to cry, 
but seemed unconscious of any fault ; he had killed a 
man, but that was rather an honourable act than a 
crime, and he only seemed to regret that it had turned 
out so unsatisfactorily. He did not seem to have 
much appetite, but swallowed his yam mechanically 
in great lumps. The boys shunned him visibly, all 
but Macao, who squatted down close before him, and 
gave him food with wild hatred in his eyes, and 
muttering awful threats. Icy-cold, cruel, with com- 
pressed lips and poisonous looks like a serpent's, he 
hissed his curses and tortured Belni, who excused 
himself clumsily and shyly, playing with the yam and 
looking from one dark corner to the other, like a boy 



RECRUITING FOR NATIVES 83 

being scolded. The scene was so gruesome that I 
had Bclni shut up again, and we watched all night, 
for Macao was determined to take the murderer's life. 
It was a dry, moonlit night ; one of the boys was 
writhing with a pain in his stomach, and we could do 
nothing to help him, so they were all convinced it was 
caused by Belni's relatives, and wanted to sail immedi- 
ately. A warm breeze had driven mosquitoes to the 
cutter ; it was a most unpleasant night. 

Next noon the natives appeared, about twenty 
strong, but without the second murderer. They said 
the shot had hit him, and that he had died during the 
night. This might have been true, and as we could 
do nothing against the village anyway, we let the 
matter drop, especially as they had brought us Bour- 
baki's rifle and two tusked pigs. The chief said he 
hoped we were satisfied with him, and would not 
trouble anyone but the murderers. 

We returned to the cutter, and the pigs were put 
in the hold, where they seem to have kept good 
company with Belni, after a little preliminary squeal- 
ing and shrieking. Then we sailed northward, with 
a breeze that carried us in four hours over the same 
distance for which we had taken twenty-four last time. 
It was a bitterly cold night. We decided to return 
home, fearing the boys would murder Belni in an un- 
watched moment, as they had asked several times, 
when the sea was high, whether we would not throw 
Belni into the water now. The passage to Santo was 
very rough. The waves thundered against the little 
old cutter, and we had a nasty tide-rip. We were 



84 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

quite soaked, and looking in through the portholes, 
we could see everything floating about in the cabin 
— blankets, saucepans, tins and pistols. We did not 
mind much, as we hoped to be at home by evening. 

Rest, cleanliness and a little comfort were very 
tempting after a fortnight in the filthy narrowness of 
the little craft. We had no reason to be vain of our 
success ; but such trips are part of the game, and we 
planned a second visit to Big Nambas to reconcile the 
chief. We were glad to greet the cloud-hung coast 
of Santo, and soon entered the Segond Channel. 
There we discovered that the old boat had leaked to 
such an extent that we could have kept afloat for only 
a few hours longer, and had every reason to be glad 
the voyage was at an end. It was just as well that 
we had not noticed the leak during the passage. 

We brought Belni ashore ; the thin, flabby fellow 
was a poor compensation for vigorous Bourbaki. He 
was set to work on the plantation, and as the Govern- 
ment was never informed of the affair, he is probably 
there to this day, and will stay until he dies. 



CHAPTER V 

VAO 

I HAD not yet solved the problem of how to get away 
from the Seofond Channel and find a crood field of 
labour, when, happily, the French priest from Port 
Olry came to stay a few days with his colleague at 
the channel, on his way to Vao, and he obligingly 
granted me a passage on his cutter. I left most of 
my luggage behind, and the schooner of the French 
survey party was to bring it to Port Olry later on. 

After a passage considerably prolonged by con- 
trary winds, we arrived at Vao, a small island 
north-east of Malekula. When one has sailed alonof 
the lifeless, greyish-green shores of Malekula, Vao 
is like a sunbeam breakingr throuo-h the mist. This 
change of mood comes gradually, as one notices the 
warm air of spring, and dry souls, weather-beaten 
captains and old pirates may hardly be aware of 
anything beyond a better appetite and greater thirst. 
And it is not easy to define what lends the little spot 
such a charm that the traveller feels revived as if 
escaped from some oppression. From a distance 
Vao looks like all the other islands and islets of 
the archipelago — a green froth floating on the white 
line of breakers ; from near by we see, as everywhere 
else, the bright beach in front of the thick forest. 



86 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

But what impresses the traveller mournfully else- 
where, — the eternal loneliness and lifelessness of a 
country where nature has poured all its power 
into the vegetation, and seems to have forgotten 
man and beast, — is softened here, and an easy 
joy of living penetrates everything like a delicate 
scent, and lifts whatever meets the eye to greater 
significance and beauty. The celestial charm of the 
South Sea Islands, celebrated by the first discoverers, 
seems to be preserved here, warming the soul like 
the sweet remembrance of a happy dream. Hardly 
anyone who feels these impressions will wonder 
about their origin, but he will hasten ashore and 
dive into the forest, driven by a vague idea of 
finding some marvel. Later he will understand that 
the charm of Vao lies in the rich, busy human life 
that fills the island. It is probably the most thickly 
populated of the group, with about five hundred souls 
living in a space one mile long and three-fourths of 
a mile wide ; and it is their happy, careless, lazy 
existence that makes Vao seem to the stranger like 
a friendly home. Here there are houses and fires, 
lively people who shout and play merrily, and after 
the loneliness which blows chill from the bush, the 
traveller is glad to rest and feel at home among 
cheerful fellow-men. 

About seventy outrigger boats of all sizes lie on 
the beach. On their bows they carry a carved heron, 
probably some half-forgotten totem. The bird is 
more or less richly carved, according to the social 
standing of the owner, and a severe watch is kept to 



VAO 87 

prevent people from carrying carvings too fine for 
their degree. Similarly, we find little sticks like 
small seats fastened to the canoes, their number 
indicating the caste of the owner. Under big sheds, 
in the shade of the tall trees, lie large whale-boats of 
European manufacture, belonging to the different 
clans, in which the men undertake long cruises to the 
other islands, Santo, Aoba, Ambrym, to visit " sing- 
sings " and trade in pigs. Formerly they used large 
canoes composed of several trees fastened together with 
ropes of cocoa-nut fibre, and caulked with rosin, driven 
by sails of cocoa-nut sheaths ; these would hold thirty 
to forty men, and were used for many murderous 
expeditions. For the inhabitants of Vao were regular 
pirates, dreaded all along the coast ; they would land 
unexpectedly in the morning near a village, kill the 
men and children, steal the women and start for 
home with rich booty. European influences have 
put a stop to this sport, and with the introduction of 
whale-boats the picturesque canoes have disappeared 
from the water, and now lie rottinsf on the beach. 
Their successors (though according to old tradition, 
women may not enter them) are only used for peace- 
ful purposes. 

In the early morning the beach is deserted, but 
a few hours after sunrise it is full of life. The 
different clans come down from their villages by 
narrow paths which divide near the shore into one 
path for the men and another for the women, lead- 
ing to separate places. The men squat down near 
one of the boat-houses and stretch out comfortably 



88 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

in the warm sand, smoking and chatting. The 
women, loaded with children and baskets, sit in the 
shade of the knobby trees which stretch their trunk- 
like branches horizontally over the beach, forming a 
natural roof ao-ainst sun and rain. The half-erown 
boys are too lively to enjoy contemplative laziness ; 
gossip and important deliberations about pigs and 
sacrifices do not interest them, and they play about 
between the canoes, wade in the water, look for shells 
on the sand, or hunt crabs or fish in the reef. Thus 
an hour passes. The sun has warmed the sand ; 
after the cool night this is doubly agreeable, and a 
light breeze cools the air. Some mothers bathe 
their babies in the sea, washing and rubbing them 
carefully, until the coppery skin shines in the sun ; 
the little creatures enjoy the bath immensely, and 
splash gaily in the element that will be their second 
home in days to come. Everyone on the beach is in 
the easiest undress : the men wear nothing but a bark 
belt, and the women a little apron of braided grass ; 
the children are quite naked, unless bracelets, neck- 
laces and ear-rinofs can count as dress. Having 
rested and amply fortified themselves for the painful 
resolution to take up the day's work, people begin 
to prepare for departure to the fields. They have to 
cross the channel, about a mile wide, to reach the big 
island where the yam gardens lie, sheltered by the 
forest from the trade-winds ; and this sail is the 
occasion for the prettiest sight Vao can offer. 

The tides drive the sea through the narrow 
channel so hard as to start a current which is almost 



VAO 89 

a stream. The head-wind raises short, sharp, white- 
capped waves ; shallow banks shine yellow through 
the clear water, and the coral reefs are patches of 
violet and crimson, and we are delighted by constant 
changes, new shades and various colourings, never 
without harmony and loveliness. A cloudless sky 
bends over the whole picture and shines on the red- 
brown bodies of the people, who bustle about their 
canoes, adding the bright red of their mats and dresses 
to the splendour of the landscape. 

With sudden energy the women have grabbed 
the boats and pushed them into the water. The girls 
are slim, supple and strong as the young men, the 
mothers and older women rather stiff, and usually 
hampered by at least one child, which they carry 
on their backs or on their hips, while another holds 
on to the garment which replaces our skirts. There 
is plenty of laughter and banter with the men, who 
look on unmoved at the efforts of the weaker sex, 
only rarely offering a helping hand. 

From the trees and hiding-places the paddles and 
the pretty triangular sails are fetched and fastened on 
the canoes ; then the boats are pushed off and the 
whole crowd jumps in. The babies sit in their 
mothers' laps or hang on their backs, perilously close 
to the water, into which they stare with big, dark 
eyes. By twos and threes the canoes push off, 
driven by vigorous paddling along the shore, against 
the current. Sometimes a young man wades after a 
canoe and joins some fair friends, sitting in front of 
them, as etiquette demands. The fresh breeze catches 



90 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

the sails, and the ten or fifteen canoes glide swiftly 
across the bright water, the spread sails looking like 
great red butterflies. The spray splashes from the bows, 
one woman steers, and the others bale out the water 
with cocoa-nuts, — a labour worthy of the Danaides ; 
sometimes the outrigger lifts up and the canoe 
threatens to capsize, but, quick as thought, the women 
lean on the poles joining outrigger and canoe, and the 
accident is averted. In a few minutes the canoes 
enter the landings between the torn cliffs on the large 
island, the passengers jump out and carry the boats 
up the beach. 

A few stragglers, men of importance who have 
been detained by politics, and bachelors, who have 
nothing and nobody to care for but themselves, follow 
later on, and only a crowd of boys stays in Vao, to 
enjoy themselves on the beach and get into all sorts 
of mischief. 

Obliging as people sometimes are when the fancy 
strikes them, a youth took us over to the other 
island in his canoe, and was even skilful enough to 
keep us from capsizing. Narrow paths, bordered 
with impenetrable bush, led us from the beach across 
coral boulders up to the plantations on top of the 
tableland. Under some cocoa-nut palms our guide 
stopped, climbed nimbly up a slim trunk, as if mount- 
ing a ladder, and three green nuts dropped to the 
ground at our feet. Three clever strokes of the knife 
opened them, and we enjoyed the refreshing drink 
in its natural bowl. Sidepaths branched off to the 
gardens, where every individual or family had its 



VAO 91 

piece of ground. We saw big bananas, taro, with 
large, juicy leaves, yams, trained on a pretty basket- 
shaped trellis-work ; when in bloom this looks like 
a huge bouquet. There were pine-apples, cabbages, 
cocoa-nut and bread-fruit trees, bright croton bushes 
and highly scented shrubs. In this green and con- 
fused abundance the native spends his day, working a 
little, loafing a great deal. He shoots big pigeons 
and little parakeets, roasts them on an improvised 
fire and eats them as a welcome addition to his 
resfular meals. From sun and rain he is sheltered 
by simple roofs, under which everybody assembles at 
noon to gossip, eat and laugh. 

Lone ao'o there were villao-es here. An enor- 
mous monolith, now broken, but once 5 metres 
high, speaks for the energy of bygone generations, 
when this rock was carried up from the coast, probably 
for a monument to some great chief. 

While the women were gathering food for the 
evening- meal we returned to Vao. The breeze had 
stiffened in the midst of the channel, and one old 
woman's canoe had capsized. She clung to the boat, 
calling pitifully for help, which amused all the men 
on the shore immensely, until at last, none too 
soon, they went to her rescue. Such adventures 
are by no means harmless, as the channel swarms 
with sharks. 

We explored the interior of Vao, going first 
through the thicket on the shore, then through reed- 
grass over 6 feet high, then between low walls 
surrounding little plantations. Soon the path widened. 



92 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

and on both sides we saw stone slabs, set several 
rows deep ; presently we found ourselves under the 
wide vault of one of those immense fig trees whose 
branches are like trunks, and the glare of the sun 
gave way to deep shadow, the heat of noonday to 
soft coolness. 

Gradually our eyes grow accustomed to the dim- 
ness, and we distinguish our surroundings. We are 
in a wide square, roofed by the long branches of the 
giant tree. At our left is its trunk, mighty enough 
in itself, but increased by the numerous air-roots that 
stretch like cables from the crown to the earth, 
covering the trunk entirely in some spots, or dangling 
softly in the wind, ending in large tassels of smaller 
roots. Lianas wind in distorted curves through the 
branches, like giant snakes stiffened while fighting. 
This square is one of the dancing-grounds of Vao. 
The rows of stones surround the square on three 
sides — two, three or more deep. Near the trunk of 
the great tree is a big altar of large slabs of rock ; 
around it are stone tables of smaller size, and one 
or two immense coral plates, which cover the 
buried skull of some mighty chief, A large rock 
lies in the middle of the road on a primitive slide 
half covered by stones and earth. Long ago the 
islanders tried to bring it up from the beach ; a 
strong vine served as a rope, and more than fifty 
men must have helped to drag the heavy rock up 
from the coast to the square. Half-way they got 
tired of the job and left the stone where it lies now, 
and will lie for ever. 




DANCINli-GKOUNU ON VAO. 



VAO 93 

On the other side of the ahar are the drums, 
hollow trunks, whose upper end is carved to represent 
a human face with wide, grinning mouth, and deep, 
round and hollow eyes. Rammed in aslant, leaning 
in all directions, they stand like clumsy, malicious 
demons, spiteful and brutal, as if holding their 
bellies with rude, immoderate laughter at their own 
hugeness and the puniness of mankind, at his 
miserable humanity, compared to the solemn repose 
of the great tree. In front of these are figures 
cut roughly out of logs, short-legged, with long 
bodies and exaggeratedly long faces ; often they are 
nothing but a head, with the same smiling mouth, 
a long nose and narrow, oblique eyes. They are 
painted red, white and blue, and are hardly discern- 
ible in the dimness. On their forked heads they 
carry giant birds with outstretched wings, — herons, 
— floating as if they had just dropped through the 
branches on to the square. 

This is all we can see, but it is enough to make 
a deep impression. Outside, the sun is glaring, the 
leaves quiver, and the clouds are drifting across the 
sky, but here it is dim and cool as in a cathedral, 
not a breeze blows, everything is lapped in a holy 
calm. Abandonment, repose, sublime thoughtless- 
ness drop down on us in the shadow of the giant 
tree ; as if in a dream we breathe the damp, soft, 
mouldy air, feel the smooth earth and the green moss 
that covers everything like a velvet pall, and gaze at 
the altars, the drums and the statues. 

In a small clearing behind the square, surrounded 



94 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

by gaily coloured croton bushes, stands the men's 
house — the "gamal." Strong pillars support its 
gabled roof, that reaches down to the ground ; the 
entrance is flanked by great ^' stone slabs. Oddly 
branched dead trees form a hedge around the house, 
and on one side, on a sort of shelf, hang hundreds 
of boars' jaws with curved tusks. Inside, there are 
a few fireplaces, simple holes in the ground, and a 
number of primitive stretchers of parallel bamboos, 
couches that the most ascetic of whites would disdain. 
Among the beams of the roof hang all kinds of 
curiosities : dancing-masks and sticks, rare fish, pigs' 
jaws, bones, old weapons, amulets and so on, every- 
thing covered with a thick layer of soot from the 
ever-smouldering fires. These "gamals " are a kind 
of club-house, where the men spend the day and 
occasionally the night. In rainy weather they sit 
round the fire, smoking, gossiping and working on 
some tool, — a club or a fine basket. Each clan has 
its own gamal, which is strictly taboo for the women, 
and to each gamal belongs a dancing-ground like 
the one described. On Vao there are five, corre- 
sponding to the number of clans. 

Near by are the dwelling-houses and family 
enclosures. Each family has its square, surrounded 
by a wall about i metre high, of loose stones 
simply piled up, so that it is unsafe to lean against 
it. Behind the walls are high screens of braided 
reeds, which preclude the possibility of looking into 
the enclosure ; even the doors are so protected that 
no one can look in ; for the men are very jealous. 



VAO 95 

and do not want their wives observed by strangers. 
These enclosures are very close together, and only 
narrow lanes permit circulation. As we turn a 
corner we may see a woman disappear quickly, 
giggling, while children run away with terrified howls, 
for what the black man is to ours the white man is 
to them. 

Having won the confidence of a native, we may 
be taken into his courtyard, where there is little to 
be seen, as all the social life goes on in the gamals 
or on the dancing-grounds. A dozen simple huts 
stand irregularly about the square, some half decayed 
and serving as pigsties. One hut belongs to the 
master, and each of his wives has a house of her 
own, in which to bring up her children. The yard 
is alive with pigs and fowls and dogs and children, 
more or less peacefully at play. 

In Vao, as in all Melanesia, the pig is the most 
valued of animals. All the thoughts of the native 
circle round the pig ; for with pigs he can buy what- 
ever his heart desires : he can have an enemy killed, 
he can purchase many women, he can attain the 
highest social standing, he can win paradise. No 
wonder, then, that the Vao pigs are just as carefully 
nursed, if not more so, than the children, and that 
it is the most important duty of the old matrons to 
watch over the welfare of the pigs. To call a young 
beauty "pig's foot," "pig's nose," "pig's tail," or 
similar endearing names is the greatest compliment a 
lover can pay. But only the male pigs are esteemed, 
the females are of account only as a necessary in- 



96 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

strument for propagating the species, and nobody- 
takes care of them ; so theyj run wild, and have to 
look out for themselves. They are much happier 
than the males, which are tied all their lives to a 
pole under a litde roof; they are carefully fed, but 
this, their only pleasure, is spoilt by constant and 
terrific toothache, caused by cruel man, who has a 
horrible custom of knocking out the upper eye-teeth 
of the male pig. The lower eye-teeth, finding nothing 
to rub against, grow to a surprising size, first upward, 
then down, until they again reach the jaw, grow on 
and on, through the cheek, through the jaw-bone, 
pushing out a few other teeth en passant, then 
they come out of the jaw again, and curve a second, 
sometimes a third time, if the poor beast lives long 
enough. These pigs with curved tusks are the pride 
and wealth of every native ; they are the highest 
coin, and power and influence depend on the number 
of such pigs a man owns, as well as on the size of 
their tusks, and this is the reason why they are 
so carefully watched, so that no harm may come to 
them or their teeth. Very rich people may have 
quite a number of "tuskers," people of average 
means own one or two, and paupers none at all, 
but they may have the satisfaction of looking at those 
of the others and feeding them if they like. 

It will be necessary to say a few words here 
about the pig-cult and the social organization of the 
natives, as they are closely connected and form a key 
to an understanding of the natives' way of living and 
thinking. I wish to state at once, however, that the 



VAO 97 

following remarks do not pretend to be correct in all 
details. It is very hard to make any researches as 
to these matters, as the natives themselves have only 
the vaguest notions on the subject, and entirely lack 
abstract ideas, so that they fail to understand many 
of the questions put to them. Without an exact 
knowledge of the language, and much personal 
observation, it is hardly possible to obtain reliable 
results, especially as the old men are unwilling to 
tell all they know, and the young know very little, 
but rely on the knowledge of the old chiefs. Inter- 
preters are of no use, and direct questioning has but 
little result, as the people soon become suspicious or 
tired of thinking, and answer as they suppose the 
white man would wish, so as to have done with the 
catechizing as soon as possible. Perfect familiarity 
with the language, habits and character of the natives 
is necessary, and their confidence must be won, in 
order to make any progress in the investigation of 
these problems. Missionaries are the men to unite 
these qualities, but, unfortunately, the missionaries of 
the New Hebrides do not seem to take much interest 
in the strange cult so highly developed here ; so that, 
for want of something better, my own observations 
may be acceptable. 

The pig-cult, or " Suque," is found almost all over 
Melanesia. It is most highly developed in the Banks 
Islands and the Central New Hebrides, and rules the 
entire life of the natives ; yet it forms only a part of 
their religion, and probably a newer part, while the 
fundamental principle is ancestor-worship. We must 
7 



98 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

not expect to find in the native mind clear conceptions 
of transcendental things. The religious ceremonies 
differ in adjoining villages, and so do the ideas 
concerning the other world. There is no regular 
dogma ; and since even the conceptions of religions 
with well-defined dogmas are constantly changing, 
religions which are handed down by oral tradition 
only, and in the vaguest way, must necessarily be 
fluctuating. Following the natural laws of thought, 
religious conceptions split into numerous local varieties, 
and it is the task of the scientist to seek, amid this 
variety of exterior forms, the common underlying 
idea, long forgotten by everyone else, and to ascertain 
what it was in its original purity, without additions 
and deformations. 

My observations led me to the following results : 
according to native belief, the soul leaves the body 
after death, and wanders about near by. Apparently 
the idea is that it remains in connection with the body 
for a certain time, for in some districts the corpse is 
fed for five days or longer ; in Vao a bamboo tube 
is used, which leads from the surface of the earth to 
the mouth of the buried body. The souls of low- 
caste people soon disappear, but the higher the caste, 
the longer the soul stays on earth. Still, the natives 
have some conception of a paradise in which the soul 
of the high-caste finds all bliss and delight, and which 
the soul ultimately enters. This idea may have come 
up since the arrival of Christianity. It is customary 
to hold a death-feast for a man of no caste after five 
days, for a low-caste after one hundred, and for a 




WOMAN FROM TAXNA. 



VAO 99 

high-caste after three hundred or even one thousand 
days. The soul remains in contact with the world of 
the living, and may be perceived as a good or bad 
spirit of as much power as the man had when alive. 
To obtain the favour and assistance of these spirits 
seems to be the fundamental idea, the main object 
of religion in the New Hebrides. The spirit of an 
ancestor will naturally favour his descendants, unless 
they have offended him deeply ; and the more power- 
ful the dead ancestor was, the stronger and safer do 
his descendants feel under the protection of his spirit. 
If a man has no powerful ancestral ghost, he joins 
some strong clan, and strives for the favour of its 
tutelary spirit by means of rich sacrifices. The spirits 
admit those who bring many sacrifices to their special 
favour and intimacy ; these people are supposed to 
have gone half-way to the spirit-world, and even in 
this life they are dreaded and enormously influential ; 
for the spirits will help him in every way, the elements 
are his servants, and he can perform the most terrible 
sorceries. Thus he terrorizes the country, becomes 
chief, and after death he joins the other ghosts as a 
powerful member of their company. 

The "Suque" transferred the hierarchy of the 
spirit-world into this world, and regulated the number 
of castes and the method of rising in caste ; it also 
originated the rules for entering into connection with 
the other world. Its origin probably goes back to 
one of those secret societies so highly developed in 
Melanesia, of which I shall speak later. 

Caste is obtained by sacrificing tusked pigs ; it is 



lOO WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

possible that this has taken the place of former human 
sacrifices. The "Suque" is the community of all 
the men who have sacrificed tusked pigs. It is an 
international society, divided into numerous groups 
composed of the men of different islands, districts, 
villages or clans. It is the only means to assure 
oneself of bliss hereafter, and to obtain power and 
wealth on earth, and whoever fails to join the " Suque " 
is an outcast, a man of no importance, without friends 
and without protectors, whether living men or spirits, 
and therefore exposed to every ill-treatment and 
utter contempt. This explains the all-important 
position of the "Suque" in the life of the natives, 
being the expression both of religion and of ambition. 

Frequently a young boy will join the " Suque," 
an uncle on the mother's side donating pigs to be 
sacrificed in his name after he has touched them with 
his hand. The boy is then free of the gamal, the 
" Suque" club-house. Later he works his way up in 
the society by attending numberless feasts and cere- 
monies, by having endless discussions on tusked pigs, 
by borrowing, buying and lending pigs, by plotting 
and sacrificing. 

The number of castes varies on different islands : 
in Ambrym there are fourteen, in Venua Lava 
twenty, in Aoba ten. On some islands, Santo, for 
example, the caste-system is connected with a severe 
separation of the fires ; each caste cooks over its own 
fire, and loses its degree on eating food cooked on 
the fire of a lower caste. In these districts the floor 
of the gamal is frequently marked by bamboo rods 



VAO loi 

or sticks in as nuiny divisions as there are castes 
each containing' one fireplace. The highest castes 
sit at the front end of the gamal, the lower at the 
back ; these are forbidden to enter the gamal from 
the front, in order not to touch or step over the fire- 
places of their superiors. At each rise in caste the 
novice receives the new lire, rubbed on a special 
stick and decorated with flowers ; certain ceremonies 
attend the cookingf of the first food with this new fire. 
It is then carefully tended in the fireplace, and if it 
goes out it has to be rubbed afresh with the stick. 
The number of pigs necessary to a rise in caste also 
varies on the different islands. Generally, only tusked 
pigs are counted, and there are feasts at which as 
many as forty of these valuable animals are killed. 
Naturally, the high-castes cannot keep all the animals 
themselves, but they lend them, like money, to those 
who do not possess the number needed to rise in 
caste ; in this way a complicated credit-system has 
developed, by which the so-called chiefs support and 
strengthen their influence and tyrannize the country. 

A young man, as a rule, owns no tusked pigs. 
If he wishes to raise his caste, he has to borrow 
from the rich high-castes, who are very willing to 
help him, but only at exorbitant rates of interest. 
First he has to win their favour by presents, and 
then he has to promise to return a more valuable 
pig later. The bargain made, the transaction takes 
place publicly with some ceremony. The population 
of the district assembles, and all the transactions are 
ratified which have been negotiated in private. The 



102 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

owner holds the pig, the borrower dances around 
him and then takes the animal away. All the spec- 
tators serve as witnesses, and there is no need of a 
written bill. In this way nearly all the men of lower 
rank are in debt to the high-castes, and dependent 
on their goodwill, and these can obtain anything 
they like, simply by pressing their debtors to pay for 
their pigs. 

As a rule, the highest castes of a district work 
together ; they are the high priests, who arrange 
everything connected with the " Suque," set the 
dates for the feasts, and decide whether a man shall 
be permitted to raise his caste. They are practically 
omnipotent, until one of them rises by still larger 
sacrifices to a still higher caste, and becomes sole 
master. If there are no more degrees to reach, the 
whole scale is run through again an octave higher, 
so to speak. The jaws of the killed pigs are hung 
up in the gamal in bundles or rows, as a sign of the 
wealth and power of the proprietor. These chiefs 
are in connection with the mightiest spirits, have 
supernatural power and are as much hated as they 
are feared. 

There is another independent witchcraft beside 
the "Suque," for weather -making, charms and 
poisoning, which is known to private men. They 
take expensive " lessons " from old sorcerers, and 
transmit their art to the young men they consider 
clever enough, for good wages. These are the real 
mischief-makers, for they will lend their murderous 
assistance to anyone for adequate payment. 



VAO 103 

In some islands there is also a " Suque " for the 
women, but it is quite independent of that of the men, 
and its degrees are easier to reach. Still, women of 
high rank enjoy a certain consideration from the 
men. 

Real chiefs do not exist in the northern part of 
the New Hebrides, but the chiefs are the high-castes, 
who, according to their rank and the strength of 
their personality, have more or less influence. They 
cannot give direct orders, but rule indirectly through 
pressure, threats and encouragement. Officially, all 
decisions are taken in a meeting of the whole "Suque." 
The chieftainship is not hereditary, but the sons and 
especially the nephews of high-castes generally reach 
high degrees themselves, being pushed by their 
relatives, who are naturally anxious to be surrounded 
by faithful and influential friends. Thus there have 
risen aristocratic families, who think themselves better 
than the others, and do not like to mix with common 
people. Daughters of these families command high 
prices, and are therefore accessible only to rich men, 
that is, men of high caste. Young men of less good 
family are naturally poor, and since a woman, as a 
rule, costs five pigs, it is almost impossible for them 
to marry, whereas old men can buy up all the young, 
pretty girls ; the social consequences of this system 
are obvious. In Vao conditions are not quite so 
bad, because there is considerable wealth, and women 
are numerous, so that even young men are enabled 
to have a family ; in consequence, the race here is 
healthier than elsewhere. 



104 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

In Vao I had occasion to attend a death-feast. 
The hero of the day was still alive and in excellent 
health ; but he did not quite trust his family, and 
wishing to make sure that his death-feast would not 
be forgotten, he held it during his lifetime. His 
anxiety about the feast is explained by the following 
facts. According to Vao beliefs, the souls of the 
dead travel to the island of Ambrym, and after five 
days climb a narrow trail up to the volcano. In 
order that the soul may not starve on the way, the 
survivors often make a small canoe, load it with food 
and push it off into the sea, thinking it will drift after 
the soul. It is generally stranded behind the nearest 
point, bringing the neighbours a welcome addition 
to the day's rations. This custom is in contradiction 
to the feeding of the body through a tube, and proves 
that quite contradictory customs can exist simultane- 
ously, without the natives noticing it. Half-way up 
the volcano sits a monster with two immense shears, 
like a crab. If no pigs have been sacrificed for the 
soul by the fifth day, the poor soul is alone and the 
monster swallows it ; but if the sacrifice has been 
performed, the souls of the sacrificed pigs follow after 
the human soul, and as the monster prefers pig, the 
human has time to escape and to reach the entrance 
to paradise on top of the volcano, where there are 
pigs, women, dancing and feasting in plenty. 

The feast I was to attend had been in preparation 
for some time. On all the dancing-grounds long 
bamboos were in readiness, loaded with yams and 
flowers, as presents to the host. Everything was 



VAO 105 

brought to his gamal, and the whole morning passed 
in distributing the gifts, each family receiving a few 
yams, a little pig, some sprouted cocoa-nuts and a 
few rolls of money. This money consists of long, 
narrow, fringed mats, neatly rolled up ; in this case 
they were supposed to be the mats in which the dead 
are buried, and which are taken out of the grave 
after a while. These mats formerly served as small 
coin, as similar mats are still used on other islands, 
and they still represent a value of about one shilling ; 
but in daily life they have been quite replaced by 
European coin, and only appear on such ceremonial 
occasions. 

All the gifts were piled up, and when the host 
was convinced that every guest had received his just 
dues, he took a stick and smashed the heads of all 
the pigs that were tied up in readiness for this 
ceremony. They struggled for a moment, the dogs 
came and licked the blood, and then each guest took 
away his portion, to have a private feast at home. 
The whole performance made a desperately business- 
like impression, and everything was done most 
prosaically ; as for me, having no better dinner than 
usual to look forward to, I quite missed the slightly 
excited holiday feeling that ought to go with a great 
feast. Formerly, the braining of the pigs was done 
with skilfully carved clubs, instead of mere sticks, and 
this alone must have g-iven the action somethino- of 
solem.nity ; but these clubs have long since been sold 
to collectors and never replaced. 

In spite of their frequent intercourse with whites, 



io6 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

the people of Vao are still confirmed cannibals, only 
they have not many opportunities for gratifying their 
taste in this direction. Still, not many years ago, 
they had killed and eaten an enemy, and each indi- 
vidual, even the little children, had received a small 
morsel of the body to eat, either with the idea of 
destroying the enemy entirely, or as the greatest 
insult that could be offered to him. 

These same people can be so gay, childlike, kind 
and obliging, tactful and generous, that one can hardly 
believe the accounts one often hears of sudden out- 
breaks of brutal savagery, devilish wickedness, in- 
gratitude and falsehood, until one has experienced 
them himself. The flattering and confiding child will 
turn suddenly and without apparent reason into a 
man full of gloom and hatred. All those repressing 
influences which lead the dwellers in civilized lands 
to some consistency of action are lacking here, and 
the morals of the natives run along other lines than 
ours. Faith and truth are no virtues, constancy and 
perseverance do not exist. The same man who can 
torture his wife to death from wanton cruelty, holding 
her limbs over the fire till they are charred, etc., will 
be inconsolable over the death of a son for a long 
time, and will wear a curl, a tooth or a finger-joint 
of the dead as a valuable relic round his neck ; and 
the same man who is capable of preparing a murder 
in cold blood for days, may, in some propitious 
evening hour, relate the most charming and poetic 
fairy-tales. A priest whom I met knew quite a 
number of such stories from a man whom he had 



VAO 107 

digged alive out of the grave, where his relatives 
had buried him, thinking him old enough to die. 
This is not a rare occurrence ; sometimes the old 
people themselves are tired of life and ask to be 
killed. 

What has preserved the old customs so well on 
Vac is the aversion of the natives to plantation work. 
But one day, while I was there, a ship rode at anchor 
off the coast, and a member of the French survey 
party landed, collected all the men on the beach, and 
told them that unless there were thirty men on board 
that evening, the whole tribe would be driven out of 
the island, as the island belonged to the French 
company. This was, to say the least, extremely 
doubtful ; moreover, it would never have been feasible 
to expropriate the natives in this summary way. 
They were furious, but, unprotected as they were, 
they had to obey, and in the evening nearly all the 
young men assembled on the beach and were taken 
away in whale-boats, disappearing in the mist and 
darkness of the niorht. The old men and the women 
remained behind, crying loudly, so that the terrible 
wailing sounded sadly over the sea. Even to the 
mere spectator it was a tragic moment when the tribe 
was thus orphaned of its best men, and one could not 
help being revolted by the whole proceeding. It was 
not womanish pity for the men who were taken off to 
work, but regret for the consequent disappearance of 
immemorial forms of tribal life. Next day the beach 
was empty. Old men and women crossed over to 
the yam-fields, the little children played as usual, but 



io8 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

the gay shouts were silent, the beautiful, brown, 
supple-bodied young men were gone, and I no longer 
felt the joy of living which had been Vao's greatest 
charm. The old men were sulky and sad, and spoke 
of leaving Vao for good and settling somewhere far 
inland. It is not surprising that the whole race has 
lost the will to live, and that children are considered 
an undesirable gift, of which one would rather be rid. 
What hopelessness lies in the words I once heard a 
woman of Vao say : " Why should we have any more 
children? Since the white man came they all die." 
And die they certainly do. Regions that once 
swarmed with people are now lonely ; where, ten 
years ago, there were large villages, we find the desert 
bush, and in some districts the population has de- 
creased by one-third in the last seven years. In 
fifteen years the native race will have practically 
disappeared. 



CHAPTER VI 
PORT OLRY AND A "SING-SING" 

The event just described reduced my chance of 
finding servants in Vao to a minimum, as all the 
able-bodied young men had been taken away. I there- 
fore sailed with the missionary for his station at Port 
Olry. Our route lay along the east coast of Santo. 
Grey rain-clouds hung on the high mountains in the 
interior, the sun shone faintly through the misty 
atmosphere, the greyish-blue sea and the greyish- 
green shore, with the brown boulders on the beach, 
formed a study in grey, whose hypnotic effect was 
increased by a warm, weary wind. Whoever was 
not on duty at the tiller lay down on deck, and 
as in a dream we floated slowly along the coast past 
lonely islands and bays ; whenever we looked up we 
saw the same picture, only the outlines seemed to 
have shifted a little. We anchored near a lonely 
isle, to find out whether its only inhabitant, an old 
Frenchman, was still alive. He had arrived there a 
year ago, full of the most brilliant hopes, which, how- 
ever, had not materialized. He had no boat, hardly 
ever saw a human being, and lived on wild fruits. 
Hardly anyone knows him or visits him, but he had 
not lost courage, and asked for nothing but a little 
salt, which we gave him, and then sailed on. 



no WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

In Hog Harbour we spent the night and enjoyed 
a hearty English breakfast with the planters, the 
Messrs. Th., who have a large and beautiful planta- 
tion ; then we continued our cruise. The country 
had changed somewhat ; mighty banks of coral 
formed high tablelands that fell vertically down to 
the sea, and the living reef stretched seaward under 
the water. These tablelands were intersected by 
flat valleys, in the centre of which rose steep hills, 
like huge bastions dominating the country round. 
The islands off the coast were covered with thick 
vegetation, with white chalk cliffs gleaming through 
them at intervals. A thin mist filled the valleys with 
violet hues, the sea was bright and a fresh breeze 
carried us gaily along. The aspect of the country 
displayed the energies of elemental powers : nowhere 
can the origin of chalk mountains be more plainly 
seen than here, where we have the process before us 
in all its stages, from the living reef, shining purple 
through the sea, to the sandy beach strewn with bits 
of coral, to the high table mountain. We anchored 
at a headland near a small river, and were cordially 
welcomed by the missionary's dogs, cats, pigs and 
native teacher. There was also a young girl whom 
the father had once dug out of her grave, where a 
hard-hearted mother had buried her. 

I had an extremely interesting time at Port Olry. 
The population here is somewhat different from that 
of the rest of Santo : very dark-skinned, tall and 
different in physiognomy. It may be called typically 
Melanesian, while many other races show Polynesian 



PORT OLRY AND A " SING-SING " 1 1 1 

admixture. The race here is very strong, coarse- 
featured and lives in the simplest way, without any 
industries, and is the primitive population in the 
New Hebrides, 

A few details as to personal appearance may be 
of interest. Among the ornaments used are very 
large combs, decorated with pigs' tails. Pigs' tails 
also are stuck into the hair and ears. The hair is 
worn very long, rolled into little curls and plentifully 
oiled. A most peculiar deformation is applied to the 
nose and results in extreme ugliness : the septum is 
perforated, and instead of merely inserting a stick, a 
springy spiral is used, which presses the nose upward 
and forward, so that in time it develops into an 
immense, shapeless lump, as if numberless wasps had 
stung it. It takes a long time to get used to this 
sight, especially as the nose is made still more con- 
spicuous by being painted with a bright red stripe on 
its point, and two black ones on each side. A more 
attractive ornament are flowers, which the men stick 
into their hair, where they are very effective on the 
dark background. In the lobes of the ears they wear 
spirals of tortoise-shell or thin ornaments of bone ; 
the men often paint their faces with a mixture of soot 
and grease, generally the upper half of the forehead, 
the lower part of the cheeks and the back of the 
nose. The women and children prefer the red juice 
of a fruit, with which they paint their faces in all sorts 
of mysterious designs. 

The dress of the men consists of a large belt, 
purposely worn very low so as to show the beautiful 



112 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

curve of the loins. About six small mats hang down 
in front. Formerly, and even at the present day on 
festival occasions, they wore on the back an ovoid 
of wood ; the purpose is quite unknown, but may 
originally have been a portable seat, as the Melan- 
esian does not like to sit on the bare ground. 
Provided with this article of dress the wearer did not 
need to look about for a seat. 

If the appearance of the men, while not beautiful, 
is at least impressive, the women are so very much 
disfigured that it takes quite some time to grow 
accustomed to their style of beauty. They are not 
allowed to wear many ornaments, have to shave their 
heads, and generally rub them with lime, so that they 
look rather like white-headed vultures, all the more 
so as the deformed nose protrudes like a beak and 
the mouth is large. The two upper incisors are 
broken out as a sign of matrimony. 

Their figures, except in young girls, are generally 
wasted, yet one occasionally meets with a woman of 
fine and symmetrical build. The dress is restricted 
to a small leaf, attached to a thin loin-string. Both 
men and women generally wear at the back a bundle 
of leaves ; women and boys have strongly scented 
herbs, the men coloured croton, the shade depending 
on the caste of the wearer. The highest castes wear 
the darkest, nearly black, varieties. These croton 
bushes are planted along the sides of the gamals, so 
as to furnish the men's ornaments, and they lend the 
sombre places some brightness and colour. 

Half for ornament and half for purposes of heal- 



PORT OLRY AND A "SING-SING" 113 

ing are the large scars which may frequently be seen 
on the shoulders or breasts of the natives. The cuts 
are supposed to cure internal pains ; the scabs are 
frequently scratched off, until the scar is large and 
high, and may be considered ornamental. Apropos 
of this medical detail I may mention another remedy, 
for rheumatism : with a tiny bow and arrow a great 
number of small cuts are shot into the skin of the 
part affected ; the scars from these wounds form a 
network of fme, hardly noticeable designs on the 
skin. 

The life and cult of the natives are as simple as 
their dress. The houses are scattered and hidden in 
the bush, grouped vaguely around the gamal, which 
stands alone on a bare square. No statues stand 
there, nor tall, upright drums ; only a few small drums 
lie in a puddle around the gamal. 

The dwelling - houses are simply gable - roofs, 
always without side-walls and often without any walls 
at all. They are divided into a pig-stable and a 
living-room, unless the owners prefer to have their 
pigs living in the same space with themselves. 

A few flat wooden dishes are the only implements 
the native does not find ready-made in nature. 
Cooking is done with heated stones heaped around 
the food, which has been previously wrapped up in 
banana leaves. Lime-stones naturally cannot be used 
for that purpose, and volcanic stones have often to be 
brought from quite a distance, so that these cooking- 
stones are treated with some care. In place of 

knives the natives use shells or inland bamboo- 
8 



114 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

splinters, but both are rapidly being replaced by- 
European knives. 

On approaching a village we are first frightened 
by a few pigs, which run away grunting and scolding 
into the thicket. Then a pack of dogs announce our 
arrival, threatening us with hypocritical zeal. A few 
children, playing in the dirt among the pigs, jump up 
and run away, then slowly return, take us by the 
hand and stare into our faces. At noon we will 
generally find all the men assembled in the gamal 
making "lap-lap." Lap-lap is the national dish of 
the natives of the New Hebrides ; quite one-fifth part 
of their lives is spent in making and eating lap-lap. 
The work is not strenuous. The cook sits on the 
ground and rubs the fruit, yam or taro, on a piece 
of rough coral or a palm-sheath, thus making a thick 
paste, which is wrapped up in banana leaves and 
cooked between stones. After a few hours' cooking 
it looks like a thick pudding and does not taste at all 
bad. For flavouring, cocoa-nut milk is poured over 
it, or it is mixed with cabbage, grease, nuts, roasted 
and ground, or occasionally with maggots. Besides 
this principal dish, sweet potatoes, manioc, bread-fruit, 
pineapples, bananas, etc., are eaten in season, and if 
the natives were less careless, they would never need 
to starve, as frequently happens. 

The men are not much disturbed by our arrival. 
They offer us a log to sit on, and continue to rub 
their yam, talking us over the while. They seem to 
be a very peaceful and friendly crowd, yet in this 
district they are particularly cruel and treacherous, 



PORT OLRY AND A "SING-SING" 115 

and only a few days after my departure war broke 
out. The gamal is bare, except for a few wooden 
dishes hanging in the roof, and weapons of all kinds, 
not in full sight, but ready at any moment. We can 
see rifles, arrows and clubs. The clubs are very 
simple, either straight or curved sticks. Old pieces 
are highly valued, and carry marks indicating how 
many victims have been killed with them : I saw one 
club with sixty-seven of these marks. In former 
years the spear with about two hundred and fifty 
points of human bones was much used, but is now 
quite replaced by the rifle. The bones for spear- 
points and arrow-heads are taken from the bodies of 
dead relatives and high-castes. The corpse is buried 
in the house, and when it is decayed the bones of 
the limbs are dug out, split, polished and used for 
weapons. The idea is that the courage and skill of 
the dead man may be transmitted to the owner of the 
weapon, also, that the dead man may take revenge 
on his murderer, as every death is considered to 
have been caused by some enemy. These bones are 
naturally full of the poisons of the corpse, and may 
cause tetanus at the slightest scratch. On the arrows 
they are extremely sharp and only slightly attached 
to the wood, so that they stick in the flesh and 
increase the inflammation. Besides, they are often 
dipped in some special poison. 

All over the archipelago the arrows are very 
carefully made, and almost every island has its own 
type, although they all resemble each other. Many 
are covered at the point with a fine spiral binding, 



ii6 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

and the small triangles thus formed are painted in 
rows — red, green and white. Much less care is 
bestowed on the fish- and bird-arrows, which are 
three-pointed as a rule, and often have no point at 
all, but only a knob, so as to stun the bird and not to 
stick in the branches of the trees. 

Shields are unknown. It would seem that the 
arrow was not, as elsewhere, the principal weapon, but 
rather the spear and club, and the wars were not very 
deadly, as the natives' skill in handling their weapons 
was equalled by their skill in dodging them. 

Having inspected the gamal, we received from 
the highest caste present a gift of some yam, or taro, 
which we requited with some sticks of tobacco. The 
length of the gamal depends on the caste of the chief 
who builds it. I saw a gamal 60 metres long, and 
while this length seems senseless to-day, because of 
the scanty population, it was necessary in former 
days, when the number of a man's followers rose with 
his rank. Not many years ago these houses were 
filled at night with sleeping warriors, each with his 
weapons at hand, ready for a fight. To-day these 
long, dark, deserted houses are too dismal for the 
few remaining men, so that they generally build a 
small gamal beside the big one. 

To have killed a man, no matter in what way, is 
a great honour, and gives the right to wear a special 
plume of white and black feathers. Such plumes are 
not rare in Port Olry. 

Each man has his own fire, and cooks his own 
food ; for, as I have said, it would mean the loss of 



PORT OLRY AND A "SING-SING" 117 

caste to eat food cooked on the fire of a lower caste. 
Women are considered unworthy to cook a man's 
meal ; in fact, their standing here is probably the 
lowest in all the archipelago. Still, they do not lack 
amusement ; they gather like the men for social 
carousals, and are giggling and chattering all day 
long. Their principal occupation is the cultivation 
of the fields, but where Nature is so open-handed 
this is not such a task as we might think when we see 
them coming home in the afternoon, panting under 
an immense load of fruit, with a pile of firewood on 
top, a child on their back and possibly dragging 
another by the hand. Port Olry is the only place in 
the New Hebrides where the women carry loads on 
their heads. Everywhere else they carry them on 
their backs in baskets of cocoa-nut leaves. In conse- 
quence the women here are remarkable for their 
erect and supple carriage. 

The work in the fields consists merely of digging 
out the yam and picking other fruit, and it is a 
sociable affair, with much talking and laughter. 
There is always something to eat, such as an 
unripe cocoa-nut or a banana. Serious work is not 
necessary except at the planting season, when the 
bush has to be cleared. Then a whole clan usually 
works together, the men helping quite energetically, 
until the fields are fenced in and ready for planting ; 
then they hold a feast, a big " kai-kai," and leave the 
rest of the work to the women. The fences are 
made to keep out the pigs, and are built in the 
simplest way : sticks of the wild cotton-wood tree. 



Ii8 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

which grows rankly everywhere, are stuck into the 
ground at short intervals ; they immediately begin 
to sprout, and after a short time form a living and 
impenetrable hedge. But they last much longer 
than is necessary, so that everywhere the fences of 
old gardens bar the road and force the traveller to 
make endless detours, all the more so as the natives 
have a way of making their fields right across the 
paths whenever it suits them. 

The number of women here amounts only to 
about one-fourth of that of the men. One reason 
for this is the custom of killing all the widows of 
a chief, a custom which was all the more pernicious 
as the chiefs, as a rule, owned most of the young 
females, while the young men could barely afford to 
buy an old widow. Happily this custom is dying 
out, owing to the influence of the planters and 
missionaries ; they appealed, not unwisely, to the 
sensuality of the young men, who were thus depriv- 
ing themselves of the women. Strange to say, the 
women were not altogether pleased with this change, 
many desiring to die, for fear they might be haunted 
by the offended spirit of their husband. 

When a chief died, the execution did not take 
place at once. The body was exposed in a special 
little hut in the thicket, and left to decay, which 
process was hastened by the climate and the flies. 
Then a death-feast was prepared, and the widows, 
half frantic with mad dancing and howling, were 
strangled. 

Ordinary people are buried in their own houses, 



PORT OLRY AND A "SING-SING" 119 

which generally decay afterwards. Often the widow 
had to sleep beside the decaying body for one 
hundred days. 

Being short of boys, I could not visit many of 
the villages inland, and I stayed on at the mission 
station, where there was generally something for 
me to do, as the natives frequently came loitering 
about the station. I made use of their presence as 
much as possible for anthropological measurements, 
but I could not always find willing subjects. Every- 
thing depends on the humour of the crowd ; if they 
make fun of the first victim, the case is lost, as no 
second man is willing to be the butt of the in- 
numerable gibes showered on the person under the 
instruments. Things are more favourable if it is 
only fear of some dangerous enchantment that holds 
them back, for then persuasion and liberal gifts of 
tobacco generally overcome their fears. The best 
subjects are those who pretend to understand the 
scientific meaning of the operation, or the utterly 
indifferent, who never think about it at all, are quite 
surprised to be suddenly presented with tobacco, 
and go home, shaking their heads over the many 
queer madnesses of white men. I took as many 
photographs as possible, and my pictures made 
quite a sensation. Once, when I showed his portrait 
to one of the dandies with the oiled and curled wig, 
he ran away with a cry of terror at his undreamt- 
of ugliness, and returned after a short while with 
his hair cut. His deformed nose, however, resisted 
all attempts at restoration. 



I20 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

The natives showed great reluctance in bringing 
me skulls and skeletons. As the bones decay very 
quickly in the tropics, only skulls of people recently 
deceased can be had. The demon, or soul, of the 
dead is supposed to be too lively as yet to be 
wantonly offended ; in any case, one dislikes to 
disturb one's own relatives, while there is less 
delicacy about those of others. Still, in course of 
time, I gathered quite a good collection of skulls 
at the station. They were brought carefully wrapped 
up in leaves, fastened with lianas, and tied to long 
sticks, with which the bearer held the disgusting 
object as far from him as possible. The bundles 
were laid down, and the people watched with ad- 
miring disgust as I untied the ropes and handled 
the bones as one would any other object. Every- 
thing that had touched the bones became to the 
natives an object of the greatest awe ; still they 
enjoyed pushing the leaves that had wrapped them 
up under the feet of an unsuspecting friend, who 
presently, warned of the danger, escaped with a 
terrified shriek and a wild jump. It would seem 
that physical disgust had as much to do with all 
this as religious fear, although the natives show 
none of this disgust at handling the remains of pigs. 
Naturally, the old men were the most superstitious ; 
the young ones were more emancipated, some of 
them even going the length of picking up a bone 
with their toes. 

Most of them had quite a similar dread of 
snakes, but some men handled them without much 



PORT OLRY AND A "SING-SING" 121 

fear, and brought me large specimens, which they 
had caught in a sling and then wrapped up in leaves. 
While I killed and skinned a big snake, a large 
crowd always surrounded me, ever ready for flight, 
and later my boys chased them with the empty skin, 
a performance which always ended in great laughing 
and dancing. 

I had been in Port Olry for three weeks, waiting 
anxiously every day for the Marie-Henry, which 
was to bring the luggage I had left behind at the 
Segond Channel, My outfit began to be insufficient ; 
what I needed most was chemicals for the preserva- 
tion of my zoological specimens, which I had plenty 
of time and occasion to collect here. One day the 
Marie- Henry, a large schooner, arrived, but my 
luggage had been forgotten. I was much disap- 
pointed, as I saw no means of recovering it in 
the near future. The Marie-Henry was bound for 
Talamacco, in Big Bay, and took the Rev. Father 
and myself along. 

One of the passengers was Mr. F., a planter and 
trader in Talamacco, and we soon became good 
friends with him and some of the others. Mr. F. 
was very kind, and promised to use all his influence 
to help me find boys. The weather was bad, and 
we had to tack about all night ; happily, we were 
more comfortable on the big schooner than on the 
little cutters. At Talamacco Mr. F. offered us his 
hospitality, and as it rained continually, we were 
very glad to stay in his house, spending the time 
in sipping gin and winding up a hoarse gramophone. 



122 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

Thus two lazy days passed, during which our host 
was constantly working for me, sending his foreman, 
the " moli," to all the neighbouring villages, with 
such good results that at last I was able to engage 
four boys for two months. I took them on board 
at once, well pleased to have the means, at last, of 
moving about independently. 

We sailed in the evening, and when, next morning, 
we rounded Cape Quiros, we found a heavy sea, so 
that the big ship pitched and ploughed with dull 
hissing through the foaming waves. She lay aslant 
under the pressure of the wind that whistled in the 
rigging, and the full curve of the great sails was a 
fine sight ; but it was evident that the sails and ropes 
were in a very rotten condition, and soon, with 
anxious looks, we followed the growth of a tear in 
the mainsail, wondering whether the mast would 
stand the strain. A heavy sea broke the rudder, 
and altogether it was high time to land when we 
entered Port Olry in the late afternoon. 

A few days later I started for Hog Harbour, for 
the plantation of the Messrs. Th., near which I meant 
to attend a great feast, or "sing-sing." This meant a 
march of several hours through the bush. My boys 
had all put on their best finery, — trousers, shirts, gay 
handkerchiefs, — and had painted their hair with fresh 
lime. 

"Well, boys, are you ready?" "Yes, Masta," 
they answer, with conviction, though they are far 
from ready, as they are still tying their bundles. 
After waiting a while, I say, " Well, me, me go." 



PORT OLRY AND A "SING-SING" 123 

They answer, "All right, you go." I take a few 
steps and wait again. One of them appears in front 
of the hut to look for a stick to hang his bundle on, 
another cannot find his pipe ; still, after a quarter of 
an hour, we can really start. The boys sing and 
laugh, but as we enter the forest darkness they 
suddenly become quiet, as if the sternness of the 
bush oppressed their souls. We talk but little, and 
only in undertones. These woods have none of the 
happy, sensuous luxuriance which fancy lends to every 
tropical forest ; there is a harshness, a selfish struggle 
for the first place among the different plants, a deadly 
battling for air and light. Giant trees with spreading 
crowns suppress everything around, kill every rival 
and leave only small and insignificant shrubs alive. 
Between them, smaller trees strive for light ; on tall, 
straight, thin stems they have secured a place and 
developed a crown. Others look for light in round- 
about ways, making use of every gap their neigh- 
bours leave, and rise upward in soft coils. All these 
form a high roof, under which younger and weaker 
plants lead a skimped life — hardwood trees on thin 
trunks, with small, unassuming leaves, and vulgar 
softwood with large, flabby foliage. Around and 
across all this wind the parasites, lianas, rotang, 
some stretched like ropes from one trunk to another, 
some rising in elegant curves from the ground, some 
attached to other trunks and suckino" out their life 
with a thousand roots, others interlaced in the air 
in distorted curves. All these grow and thrive on 
the bodies of former generations on the damp. 



124 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

mouldy ground, where leaves rot and trunks decay, 
and where it is always wet, as never a sunbeam can 
strike in so far. 

Thus it is sad in the forest, and strangely quiet, as 
in a churchyard, for not even the wind can penetrate 
the green surface. It passes rushing through the 
crowns, so that sometimes we catch an upward 
glimpse of bright yellow sunshine as though out of 
a deep gully. And as men in sternest fight are 
silent, using all their energy for one purpose, so 
here there is no sign of gay and happy life, there 
are no flowers or coloured leaves, but the endless, 
dull green, in an infinity of shapes. 

Even the animals seem to shun the dark forest 
depths ; only on the highest trees a few pigeons bathe 
in the sun, and as they fly heavily over the wood, 
their call sounds, melancholy as a sad dream, from 
afar. A lonely butterfly flutters among the trees, a 
delicate being, unused to this dark world, seeking in 
vain for a ray of sun and a breath of fresh air. 
Sometimes we hear the grunt of an invisible pig, 
the breaking of branches and the rustling of leaves 
as it runs away. Moisture and lowering gloom brood 
over the swampy earth ; one would not be surprised 
if suddenly the ground were to move and wriggle 
like slimy snakes tightly knotted around each other. 
Thorns catch the limbs, vines catch the feet, and 
the wanderer, stumbling along, almost fancies he 
can hear the spiteful laughter of malicious demons. 
One feels tired, worried, unsafe, as if in an enemy's 
country, helplessly following the guide, who walks 



PORT OLRY AND A "SING-SING" 125 

noiselessly on the soft ground. With a branch he 
sweeps aside the innumerable spider-webs that droop 
across the path, to keep them from hanging in 
our faces. Silently the other men follow behind ; 
once in a while a dry branch snaps or a trunk 
creaks. 

In this dark monotony we go on for hours, 
without an outlook, and seemingly without purpose 
or direction, on a hardly visible path, in an endless 
wilderness. We pass thousands of trees, climb 
over hundreds of fallen trunks and brush past 
millions of creepers. Sometimes we enter a clearing, 
where a gaint tree has fallen or a village used to 
stand. Sometimes great coral rocks lie in the 
thicket ; the pools at their foot are a wallowing- 
place for pigs. 

It is a confusing walk ; one feels quite dizzy with 
the constantly passing stems and branches, and a 
white man would be lost in this wilderness without 
the native, whose home it is. He sees everything, 
every track of beast or bird, and finds signs on 
every tree and vine, peculiarities of shape or grouping, 
which he recognizes with unerring certainty. He 
describes the least suggestion of a trail, a footprint, 
or a knife-cut, or a torn leaf. As the white man 
finds his way about a city by means of street signs, 
so the savage reads his directions in the forest from 
the trees and the ground. He knows every plant 
and its uses, the best wood for fires ; he knows when 
he may expect to find water, and which liana makes 
the strongest rope. Yet even he seems to feel some- 



126 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

thing of the appalHng loneliness of the primeval 
forest. 

Our path leads steeply up and down, over loose 
coral blocks, between ferns and mosses ; lianas serve 
as ropes to help us climb over coral rocks, and with 
our knives we hew a passage through thorny creepers 
and thick bush. The road runs in zigzags, some- 
times turning back to go round fallen trunks and 
swampy places, so that we really walk three or four 
times the distance to Hog Harbour. Our guide uses 
his bush-knife steadily and to good purpose : he sees 
where the creepers interlace and which branch is the 
chief hindrance, and in a few deft cuts the tangle 
falls. 

At last — it seems an eternity since we dived into 
the forest — we hear from afar, through the green 
walls, a dull roaring, and as we go on, we distinguish 
the thunder of the breakers like the beating of a 
great pulse. Suddenly the thicket lightens, and we 
stand on the beach, blinded by the splendour of light 
that pours on us, but breathing freely in the fresh 
air that blows from the far horizon. We should like 
to stretch out on the sand and enjoy the free space 
after the forest gloom ; but after a short rest we go 
on, for this is only half-way to our destination, and 
we dive once more into the semi-darkness. 

Towards evening we reach the plantation of the 
Messrs. Th. They are Australians of good family, 
and their place is splendidly kept. I was struck by 
the cleanliness of the whole establishment, the good 
quarters of the native labourers, the quiet way in 



PORT OLRY AND A "SING-SING" 127 

which work was done, the pleasant relations between 
masters and hands, and last, but not least, the healthy 
and happy appearance of the latter. 

The brothers had just finished the construction 
of what was quite a village, its white lime walls 
shining invitingly through the green of the cocoa-nut 
palms. There was a large kitchen, a storehouse, 
a tool-shed, a bakery, a dwelling-house and a light, 
open summer-house, a delightful spot, where we dined 
in the cool sea-breeze and sipped whisky in the moon- 
light, while the palm-leaves waved dreamily. Then 
there was a large poultry yard, pigsty and paddocks, 
and along the beach were the boat-houses, drying- 
sheds and storehouses, shaded by old trees. The 
boys' quarters were roomy, eight sleeping together in 
an airy hut, while the married couples had houses of 
their own. The boys slept on high beds, each with 
his " bocase " underneath, to hold his possessions, 
while all sorts of common property hung in the roof — 
nets, fish-spears, bows, guns, etc. 

Such plantations, where the natives lack neither 
food nor good treatment, can only have a favourable 
influence on the race, and it is not quite clear why 
the Presbyterian missionaries do not like their 
young men to go in for plantation work. Owing 
to the good treatment of their hands the Messrs. Th. 
have always had enough labourers, and have been 
able to develop their plantation wonderfully. It 
consists almost exclusively of cocoa-nut palms, planted 
on ground wrested from the forest in a hard fight. 
When I was there the trees were not yet in full 



128 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

bearing, but the proprietors had every reason to 
expect a very considerable income in a few years. 
The cultivation of the cocoa-nut is extremely simple ; 
the only hard work is the first clearing of the ground, 
and keeping the young trees free from lianas. Once 
they are grown up, they are able to keep down 
the bush themselves to a certain extent, and then 
the work consists in picking up the ripe nuts from 
the ground, husking and drying them. The net 
profit from one tree is estimated at one shilling 
per annum. Besides the cultivation of their planta- 
tion the Messrs. Th. plied a flourishing trade in coprah 
and sandalwood all along the west coast of Santo, which 
they visited frequently in their cutter. This same 
cutter was often a great help to me, and, indeed, 
her owners always befriended me in the most 
generous way, and many are the pleasant hours I 
spent in their company. 

After dinner that first day we went to the village 
where the "sing-sing" was to take place. There 
was no moon, and the night was pitch dark. The 
boys had made torches of palm-leaves, which they 
kept burning by means of constant swinging. They 
flared up in dull, red flames, lighting up the nearest 
surroundings, and we wound our way upwards 
through the trunk vines and leaves that nearly 
shut in the path. It seemed as if we were groping 
about without a direction, as if looking for a match 
in a dark room. Soon, however, we heard the 
dull sound of the drums, and the noise led us to 
the plateau, till we could see the red glare of a 



PORT OLRY AND A "SING-SING" 129 

fire and hear the rough voices of men and the 
shrill singing of women. 

Unnoticed, we entered the dancing-ground, A 
number of men were standingr in a circle round a 
huge fire, their silhouettes cutting sharply into the 
red glare. Out of a tangle of clubs, rifles, plumes, 
curly wigs, round heads, bows and violently gesticu- 
lating arms, sounds an irregular shrieking, yelling, 
whistling and howling, uniting occasionally to a 
monotonous song. The men stamp the measure, 
some begin to whirl about, others rush towards the 
fire ; now and then a huge log breaks in two and 
crowns the dark, excited crowd with a brilliant 
column of circling sparks. Then everybody yells 
delightedly, and the shouting and dancing sets in 
with renewed vigour. Everyone is hoarse, panting 
and covered with perspiration, which paints light 
streaks on the sooty faces and bodies. 

Noticing us, a man rushes playfully towards us, 
threateningly swinging his club, his eyes and teeth 
shining in the darkness ; then he returns to the 
shouting, dancing mob around the fire. Half-grown 
boys sneak through the crowd ; they are the most 
excited of all, and stamp the ground wildly with 
their disproportionately large feet, kicking and shriek- 
ing in unpleasant ecstasy. All this goes on among 
the guests ; the hosts keep a little apart, near a 
scaffolding, on which yams are attached. The men 
circle slowly round this altar, carrying decorated 
bamboos, with which they mark the measure, stamp- 
ing them on the ground with a thud. They sing 
9 



130 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

a monotonous tune, one man starting and the others 
joining in ; the dance consists of slow, springy jumps 
from one foot to the other. 

On two sides of this dancing circle the women 
stand in line, painted all over with soot. When 
the men's deep song is ended, they chant the same 
melody with thin, shrill voices. Once in a while they 
join in the dance, taking a turn with some one man, 
then disappearing ; they are all much excited ; only 
a few old hags stand apart, who are past worldly 
pleasures, and have known such feasts for many, 
many years. 

The whole thing looks grotesque and uncanny, 
yet the pleasure in mere noise and dancing is 
childish and harmless. The picture is imposing and 
beautiful in its simplicity, gruesome in its wildness 
and sensuality, and splendid with the red lights 
which play on the shining, naked bodies. In the 
blackness of the night nothing is visible but that 
red-lit group of two or three hundred men, careless 
of to-morrow, given up entirely to the pleasure of 
the moment. The spectacle lasts all night, and 
the crowd becomes more and more wrought up, 
the leaps of the dancers wilder, the singing louder. 
We stand aside, incapable of feeling with these 
people or sharing their joy, realizing that theirs is 
a perfectly strange atmosphere which will never 
be ours. 

Towards morning we left, none too early, for 
a tremendous shower came down and kept on all 
next morning. I went up to the village again, to 



PORT OLRY AND A "SING-SING" 131 

find a most dismal and dejected crowd. Around 
the square, in the damp forest, seedy natives stood 
and squatted in small groups, shivering with cold 
and wet. Some tried to warm themselves around 
fires, but with poor success. Bored and unhappy, 
they stared at us as we passed, and did not move. 
Women and children had made umbrellas of larsre 
flat leaves, which they carried on their heads ; the 
soot which had formed their festival dress was 
washed off by the rain. The square itself was 
deserted, save for a pack of dogs and a few little 
boys, rolling about in the mud puddles. Once in 
a while an old man would come out of the gramal. 
yawn and disappear. In short, it was a lendemain 
de fete of the worst kind. 

About once in a quarter of an hour a man 
would come to bring a tusked pig to the chief, 
who danced a few times round the animal, stamped 
his heel on the ground, uttered certain words, and 
retired with short, stiff steps, shaking his head, into 
the gamal. The morning was over by the time 
all the pigs were ready. I spent most of the time 
out of doors, rather than in the gamal, for there 
many of the dancers of the evening lay in all 
directions and in most uncomfortable positions, 
beside and across each other, snoring, shivering or 
staring sulkily into dark corners. I was offered a 
log to sit on, and it might have been quite acceptable 
had not one old man, trembling with cold, pressed 
closely against me to get warm, and then, half 
asleep, attempted to lay his shaggy, oil-soaked head 



132 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

on my shoulder, while legions of starved fleas 
attacked my limbs, forcing me to beat a hasty 
though belated retreat. 

In the afternoon about sixty pigs were tied to 
poles in front of the gamal, and the chief took an 
old gun-barrel and smashed their heads. They 
represented a value of about six hundred pounds ! 
Dogs and men approached the quivering victims, 
the dogs to lick the blood that ran out of their 
mouths, the men to carry the corpses away for the 
feast. This was the prosaic end of the great " sing- 
sing." 

As it is not always easy to borrow the number 
of pigs necessary to rise in caste, there are charms 
which are supposed to help in obtaining them. 
Generally, these are curiously shaped stones, some- 
times carved in the shape of a pig, and are carried 
in the hand or in little baskets in the belt. Such 
charms are, naturally, very valuable, and are handed 
down for generations or bought for large sums. 
On this occasion the "big fellow-master" had 
sacrificed enough to attain a very high caste indeed, 
and had every reason to hold up his head with 
great pride. 

Formerly, these functions were generally graced 
with a special feature, in the shape of the eating of a 
man. As far as is known, the last cannibal meal took 
place in 1906; the circumstances were these: Some 
young men were walking through the forest, carrying 
their Snider rifles, loaded and cocked as usual, on their 
shoulders. Unluckily, one of the rifles went off, and 



PORT OLllY AND A "SING -SING" 133 

killed the man behind, the son of an influential native. 
Everyone was aware that the death was purely 
accidental, but the father demanded a considerable 
indemnity. The "murderer," a poor and friendless 
youth, was unable to pay, and fled to a neighbouring 
village. He was received kindly enough, but his 
hosts sent secretly to the offended father to ask what 
they were to do with him. " Kill him and eat him," 
was the reply. They therefore prepared a great feast, 
in honour, as they said, of their beloved guest, and 
while he was sitting cheerfully near the fire, in antici- 
pation of the good meal to come, they killed him from 
behind with an axe. The body was roasted, and the 
people of his village were asked to the feast. One 
man had received the forearm and hand, and while 
he was chewing the muscles and pulling away at the 
inflectors of the fingers, the hand closed and scratched 
his cheek, — "all same he alive," — whereupon the 
horrified guest threw his morsel away and fled into 
the forest. 

On my return to Port Olry I found that the 
Father had gone to visit a colleague, as his duties 
did not take up much of his time. His post at Port 
Olry was rather a forlorn hope, as the natives showed 
no inclination to become converts, especially not in 
connection with the poor Roman Catholic mission, 
which could not offer them any external advantages, 
like the rich and powerful Presbyterian mission. All 
the priests lived in the greatest poverty, in old houses, 
with very few servants. The one here had, besides 
a teacher from Malekula, an old native who had 



134 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

quarrelled with his chief and separated from his clan. 
The good man was very anxious to marry, but no girl 
would have him, as he had had two wives, and had, 
quite without malice, strangled his second wife by 
way of curing her of an illness. I was reminded of 
this little episode every time I looked at the man's 
long, bony fingers. 

One day a native asked me for medicine for his 
brother. I tried to find out the nature of the ailment, 
and decided to give him calomel, urging his brother 
to take it to him at once. The man had eaten a 
quarter of a pig all by himself, but, of course, it was 
said that he had been poisoned. His brother, instead 
of hurrying home, had a little visit with his friends at 
the coast, until it was dark and he was afraid to go 
home through the bush alone ; so he waited till next 
morning, when it was too late. The man's death 
naturally made the murder theory a certainty, so the 
body was not buried, but laid out in the hut, with all 
sorts of finery. Around it, in spite of the fearful 
odour, all the women sat for ten days, in a cloud of 
blow-flies. They burned strong-scented herbs to kill 
the smell, and dug a little trench across the floor, in 
order to keep the liquids from the decaying corpse 
from running into the other half of the house. The 
nose and mouth of the body were stopped up with 
clay and lime, probably to keep the soul from getting 
out, and the body was surrounded by a little hut. In 
the gamal close by sat all the men, sulky, revengeful, 
and planning war, which, in fact, broke out within a 
few days after my departure. 



PORT OLRY AND A "SING-SING" 135 

The Messrs. Th. had been kind enough to invite 
me to go on a recruiting trip to Maevo, the most 
north-easterly island of the group. Here I found 
a very scanty population, showing many traces of 
Polynesian admixture in appearance and habits. The 
weather was nasty and our luck at recruiting poor, 
so that after a fortnight we returned to Hog Harbour. 
I went to Port Olry to my old priest's house, and 
a few days later Mr. Th. came in his cutter to take 
me to Tassimaloun in Big Bay ; so I bade a hearty 
farewell to the good Father, whom I have never had 
the pleasure of meeting again. 



CHAPTER VII 
SANTO 

There are hardly any natives left in the south of the 
Bay of St. Philip and St. James, generally called Big 
Bay. Only to the north of Talamacco there are a 
few villages, in which the remnants of a once numer- 
ous population, mostly converts of the Presbyterian 
mission, have collected. It is a very mixed crowd, 
without other organization than that which the mission 
has created, and that is not much. There are a few 
chiefs, but they have even less authority than else- 
where, and the feeling of solidarity is lacking entirely, 
so that I have hardly ever found a colony where there 
was so much intrigue, immorality and quarrelling. 
A few years ago the population had been kept in 
order by a Presbyterian missionary of the stern and 
cruel type ; but he had been recalled, and his place 
was taken by a man quite unable to cope with the 
lawlessness of the natives, so that every vice de- 
veloped freely, and murders were more frequent than 
in heathen districts. Matters were not improved by 
the antagonism between the Roman Catholic and 
Presbyterian missions and the traders ; each worked 
against the others, offering the natives the best of 
opportunities to fish in troubled waters. The result 

of all this was a rapid decrease of the population and 

136 



SANTO 137 

frequent artificial sterility. The primitive population 
has disappeared completely in some places, and is only 
to be found in any numbers far inland among the 
western mountains. The situation is a little better 
in the north, where we find a number of flourishing 
villages along the coast around Cape Cumberland. 

The nearest village to Talamacco was Tapapa. 
Sanitary conditions there were most disheartening, as 
at least half of the inhabitants were leprous, and most 
of them suffered from tuberculosis or elephantiasis. I 
saw hardly any children, so that the village will 
shortly disappear, like so many others. 

Native customs along the coast are much the same 
as at Port Olry, but less primitive, and the houses are 
better built. There is wood-carving, or was. I found 
the doorposts of old gamals beautifully carved, and 
plates prettily decorated ; but these were all antiques, 
and nothing of the kind is made at the present day. 

The race, however, is quite different from that 
around Port Olry. There are two distinct types : one, 
Melanesian, dark, tall or short, thin, curly-haired, 
with a broad nose and a brutal expression ; and one 
that shows distinct traces of Polynesian blood in its 
finer face, a larger body, which is sometimes fat, 
light skin and frequently straight hair. Just where 
this Polynesian element comes from it is hard to say, 
but the islands in general are very favourable to race- 
mixture along the coasts. As I said before, the 
Melanesian type shows two distinct varieties, a tall 
dark one, and a short light one. At first I did not 
realize the significance of the latter until I became 



138 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

aware of the existence of a negroid element, of which 
I saw clear traces. The two varieties, however, are 
much intermingled, and the resulting blends have 
mixed with the Polynesian-Melanesian type, so that 
the number of types is most confusing, and it will be 
hard to determine the properties of the original one. 

Finding little of interest in the immediate sur- 
roundings of Talamacco, I determined to make an 
excursion into the interior of the island. Mr. F. put 
his foreman, or moli, at my disposal, and he engaged 
my bearers, made himself useful during the trip in 
superintending the boys, and proved valuable in 
every way, as he was never afraid, and was known 
to nearly all the inland chiefs. 

After a rainy spell of six weeks we had a clear 
day at last ; and although the weather could not be 
taken into consideration when making my plans, still, 
the bright sunshine created that happy and expectant 
sensation which belongs to the beginning of a 
journey. The monthly steamer had arrived the day 
before, had shipped a little coprah, and brought some 
provisions for the trader and myself. I had com- 
pleted my preparations, engaged my boys and was 
ready to start. 

In the white glare of a damp morning we pulled 
from the western shore of Big Bay to the mouth of 
the Jordan River. The boat was cramped and over- 
loaded, and we were all glad to jump ashore after a 
row of several hours. The boys carried the luggage 
ashore and pulled the boat up into the bush with 
much noise and laughter. Then we settled down in 



SANTO 1 39 

the shade for our first meal, cooking being an occu- 
pation of which the boys are surprisingly fond. Their 
rations are rice and tea, with a tin of meat for every 
four. This discussed, we packed up, and began our 
march inland. 

The road leads through a thin bush, over rough 
coral boulders and gravel deposited by the river. 
We leave the Jordan to our right, and march south- 
east. After about an hour we come to a swampy 
plain, covered with tall reed-grass. Grassy plains 
are an unusual sight in Santo ; the wide expanse of 
yellowish green is surrounded by dark walls of she- 
oak, in the branches of which hang thousands of 
flying-foxes. At a dirty pond we fill our kettles with 
greenish water, for our night camp will be on the 
mountain slope ahead of us, far from any spring. 
Even the moli has to carry a load of water, as I can 
hardly ask the boys to take any more. He feels 
rather humiliated, as a moli usually carries nothing 
but a gun, but he is good enough to see the necessity 
of the case, and condescends to carry a small kettle. 

Straight ahead are the high coral plateaux across 
which our road lies. While we tackle the ascent, the 
sky has become overcast, the gay aspect of the land- 
scape has changed to sad loneliness and a heavy 
shower soaks us to the skin. The walk through the 
jungle is trying, and even the moli loses the way 
now and agrain. Towards nightfall we enter a hio^h 
forest with but little underbrush, and work our way 
slowly up a steep and slippery slope to an overhang- 
ing coral rock, where we decide to camp. We have 



140 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

lost our way, but as night is closing in fast, we cannot 
venture any farther. 

The loads are thrown to the ground in disorder, 
and the boys drop down comfortably ; strong 
language on my part is needed before they make up 
their minds to pile up the luggage, collect wood and 
begin to cook. Meanwhile my own servant has 
prepared my bed and dried my clothes. Soon it is 
quite dark, the boys gather round the fires, and do 
not dare to go into the yawning darkness any more, 
for fear of ghosts. 

The rain has ceased, and the soft damp night air 
hangs in the trees. The firelight is absorbed by the 
darkness, and only the nearest surroundings shine 
in its red glare ; the boys are stretched out in 
queer attitudes round the fire on the hard rocks. 
Soon I turn out the lamp and lie listening to the 
night, where vague life and movement creeps through 
the trunks. Sometimes a breath of wind shivers 
through the trees, shaking heavy drops from the 
leaves. A wild pig grunts, moths and insects circle 
round the fires, and thousands of mosquitoes hum 
about my net and sing me to sleep. Once in a while 
I am roused by the breaking of a rotten tree, or a 
mournful cry from one of the dreaming boys ; or one 
of them wakes up, stirs the fire, turns over and snores 
on. Long before daybreak a glorious concert of 
birds welcomes the new day. Half asleep, I watch 
the light creep across the sky, while the bush is still 
in utter darkness ; suddenly, like a bugle-call, the 
first sunbeams strike the trees and it is broad day. 



SANTO 141 

Chilly and stiff, the boys get up and crowd round 
the fires. As we have no more water there is no 
tea, and breakfast is reduced to dry biscuits. The 
moli has found the lost trail by this time, and we 
continue the ascent. On the plateau we again 
strike nearly impenetrable bush, and lose the trail 
again, so that after a few hours' hard work with the 
knives we have to retrace our steps for quite a dis- 
tance. It is a monotonous climb, varied only by 
an occasional shot at a wild pig and fair sport with 
pigeons. Happily for the thirsty boys, we strike a 
group of bamboos, which yield plenty of water. All 
that is needed is to cut the joint of the stems, and 
out of each section flows a pint of clear water, which 
the boys collect by holding their huge mouths under 
the opening. Their clothes are soaked, but their 
thirst is satisfied and our kettles filled for the midday 
meal. 

Presently we pass a native "camp" under an 
overhanging rock : it consists of a few parallel sticks, 
on which the native sleeps as well as any European 
on a spring-mattress, and a hollow in the ground, 
with a number of cooking-stones. 

After a stiff climb we stop for our meal, then 
follow a path which gradually widens and improves, 
a sign that we are nearing a village. Towards 
evening we come to some gardens, where the natives 
plant their yam and taro. At the entrance of the 
village I make my boys close up ranks ; although 
the natives are not supposed to be hostile, my people 
show signs of uneasiness, keeping close together 



142 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

and carrying the few weapons we have very con- 
spicuously. 

We cross the village square to the gamal, a 
simple place, as they all are, with a door about a yard 
from the ground, in order to keep out the pigs which 
roam all over the village. In line with the front of 
the house is a row of tall bamboo posts, wound with 
vines ; their hollow interior is filled with yam and 
taro, the remains of a great feast. The village seems 
quite deserted, and we peep cautiously into the in- 
terior of the gamal, where, after a while, we discern a 
man, lying on the damp and dirty ground, who stares 
at us in silent fright. He gets up and comes slowly 
out, and we can see that he has lost half of one foot 
from leprosy. From him the moli learns that the 
two chiefs are away at a great "sing-sing," and the 
rest of the men in the fields or in their wives' houses. 
There is nothing for us to do but sit down and wait, 
and be sniffed at by pigs, barked at by dogs and 
annoyed by fowls. The moli beats vigorously on 
one of the wooden drums that lie in the mud in front 
of the house. He has his own signal, which most of 
the natives know, so that all the country round is 
soon informed of his arrival. 

One by one the men arrive, strolling towards the 
gamal as if unconscious of our presence ; some of 
them greet one or the other of my boys whom they 
have met when visiting at the shore. Nearly all 
of them are sick with leprosy or elephantiasis or 
tuberculosis, and after the long rainy period they all 
have colds and coughs and suffer from rheumatism ; 



SANTO 143 

altogether they present a sad picture of degeneration 
and misery, and there are few healthy men to be seen. 

My luggage is taken into the gamal, and I order 
the hpys to buy and prepare food, whereupon the 
natives hurry away and fetch a quantity of supplies : 
pigs, fowls, yam, taro, of which I buy a large stock, 
paying in matches and tobacco. There are also eggs, 
which, I am assured, are delicious ; but this is accord- 
ing to native taste, which likes eggs best when half 
hatched. While the boys are cooking, I spend the 
time in measuring the villagers. At first they are 
afraid of the shiny, pointed instruments, but the 
tobacco they receive, after submitting to the operation, 
dispels their fears. The crowd sits round us on the 
ground, increasing the uneasiness of my victims by 
sarcastic remarks. 

Meanwhile, the women have arrived, and crouch 
in two groups at the end of the square, which they 
are forbidden to enter. There are about twenty of 
them, not many for nearly fifty men, but I see only 
three or four babies, and many faded figures and old- 
looking girls of coarse and virile shape, the con- 
sequence of premature abuse and artificial sterility. 
But they chat away quite cheerfully, giggle, wonder, 
clap their hands, and laugh, taking hold of each other, 
and rocking to and fro. 

At last the two chiefs arrive, surprisingly tall and 
well-built men, with long beards carefully groomed, 
and big mops of hair. Like all the men, they are 
dressed in a piece of calico that hangs down in front, 
and a branch of croton behind. They have big 



144 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

bracelets, and wear the curved tusks of pigs on their 
wrists. There is just time before nightfall to take 
their measures and photographs, then I retire into 
the gamal for my supper, during which I am closely 
observed by the entire male population. They make 
remarks about the spoons and the Worcester sauce, 
and when I put sugar into my tea, they whisper to 
each other, " Salt ! " which idea is almost enough to 
spoil one's appetite, only the delicious roast sucking- 
pig is too tempting. 

My toilet for the night is watched with the same 
attention ; then, while I am still re.ding on my bed, 
the men seek their couches in the long, low house. 
They stir up all the fires, which smoke terribly, then 
they lie down on their bamboo beds, my boys among 
them, and talk and talk till they fall asleep, — a house- 
ful of leprous and consumptive men, who cough and 
groan all night. 

In front of me, near the entrance, is the chief's 
place. He spends a long time in preparing his kava, 
and drinks it noisily. Kava is a root which is 
ground with a piece of sharp coral ; the fibres are 
then mixed with water, which is contained in a long 
bamboo, and mashed to a soft pulp ; the liquid is 
then squeezed out, strained through a piece of cocoa- 
nut bark into a cocoa-nut bowl and drunk. The 
liquid has a muddy, thick appearance, tastes like 
soapy water, stings like peppermint and acts as a 
sleeping-draught. In Santo only chiefs are allowed 
to drink kava. 

At first, innumerable dogs disturbed my sleep, 



SANTO 145 

and towards morning it grew very cold. When I 
came out of the hut, the morning sun was just getting 
the better of the mist, and spreading a cheery Hght 
over the square, which had looked dismal enough 
under a grey, rainy sky. I made all the women 
gather on the outskirts of the square to be measured 
and photographed. They were very bashful, and I 
almost pitied them, for the whole male population 
sat around making cruel remarks about them ; indeed, 
if it had not been for the chiefs explicit orders, they 
would all have run away. They were not a very 
pleasant spectacle, on the whole. I was struck by 
the tired, suffering expression of even the young 
girls, a hopeless and uninterested look, in contradic- 
tion with their lively behaviour when unobserved. 
For they are natural and happy only when among 
themselves, and in the presence of the men they feel 
that they are under the eye of their master, often a 
brutal master, whose property they are. Probably 
they are hardly conscious of this, and take their 
position and destiny as a matter of course ; but they 
are constrained in the presence of their owners, 
knowing that at any moment they may be displeased 
or angry, for any reason or for none, and may ill- 
treat or even kill them. Aside from these considera- 
tions their frightened awkwardness was extremely 
funny, especially when posing before the camera. 
Some could not stand straight, others twisted their 
arms and legs into impossible positions. The idea 
of a profile view seemed particularly strange to them, 
and they always presented either their back or their 



146 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

front view. The poor things got more and more 
nervous, the men roared, I was desperate, — altogether 
it was rather unsatisfactory. 

I was in need of more bearers to carry the pro- 
visions I had bought, and the chiefs were quite 
willing to supply them ; but their orders had abso- 
lutely no effect on the men, who were too lazy, and I 
should have been in an awkward position had not 
one of the chiefs hit on the expedient of employ- 
ing his women. They obeyed without a moment's 
hesitation ; each took a heavy load of yam, all but the 
favourite wife, the only pretty one of the number ; 
her load was small, but she had to clear the trail, 
walking at the head of the procession. 

The women led the way, chatting and giggling, 
patient and steady as mules, and as sure-footed and 
supple. Nothing stops them ; with a heavy load on 
their heads they walk over fallen trunks, wade 
through ditches, twist through vines, putting out a 
hand every now and then to feel whether the bunch 
of leaves at their back is in place. They were 
certainly no beauties, but there was a charm in their 
light, soft step, in the swaying of their hips, in the 
dainty poise of their slim ankles and feet, and the 
softness and harmony of all their movements. And 
the light playing on their dark, velvety, shining 
bodies increased this charm, until one almost forgot 
the many defects, the dirt, the sores, the disease. 
This pleasant walk in the cool, dewy forest, under 
the bright leaves, did not last long, and after two 
hours' tramp we reached our destination. 



SANTO 



147 



At the edge of the square the women sat down 
beside their loads, and were soon joined by the 
women of the village. Our hostesses were at once 
informed of every detail of our outfit, our food and 
our doings, and several dozen pairs of big dark eyes 
followed our every movement. The women were 
all quite sure that I was a great doctor and magician, 
and altogether a dangerous man, and this belief was 
not at all favourable to my purposes. 

We men soon withdrew to the gamal, where the 
men likewise had to be informed of everything re- 
lating to our doings and character. The gamal was 
low and dirty, and the state of health of the in- 
habitants still worse than in the first village, but at 
least there were a few more babies than elsewhere. 
The chief suffered from a horrible boil in his loin, 
which he poulticed with chewed leaves, and the odour 
was so unbearable that I had to leave the house and 
sit down outside, where I was surrounded by many 
lepers, without toes or even feet, a very dismal 
sight. 

I now paid my carriers the wages agreed upon, 
but they claimed that I ought to pay the men extra, 
although their services had been included in the 
price. I took this for one of the tricks by which 
the natives try to get the better of a good-natured 
foreigner, and refused flatly, whereupon the whole 
crowd sat down in front of the house and waited in 
defiant silence. I left them there for half an hour, 
during which they whispered and deliberated in 
rather an uncomfortable way. I finally told them 



148 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

that I would not pay any more, and that they had 
better go away at once. The interpreter said they 
were waiting for the chiefs to get through with some- 
thing they had to talk over, and they stayed on a 
while longer. My refusal may have been a mistake, 
and there may really have been a misunderstanding, 
at any rate, I had to suffer for my unyielding way, 
inasmuch as the behaviour of our hosts immediately 
changed from talkative hospitality and childish 
curiosity to dull silence and suspicious reticence. 
The people sat around us, sullen and silent, and would 
not help us in any way, refused to bring firewood or 
show us the water-hole, and seemed most anxious 
to get rid of us. Under these circumstances it was 
useless to try to do any of my regular work, and I 
had to spend an idle and unpleasant afternoon. At 
last I induced a young fellow to show me the way to 
a high plateau near by, from which I had a beautiful 
view across trees to the east coast of the island, with 
the sea in a blue mist far away. As my guide, con- 
sumptive like all the others, was quite out of breath 
with our short walk, I soon had to return, and I 
paid him well. This immediately changed the 
attitude of all the rest. Their sullenness disappeared, 
they came closer, began to talk, and at last we spent 
the afternoon in comparative friendship, and I could 
attend to my business. 

But the consequences of my short visit to the 
gamal became very noticeable. In my hat I found 
a flourishing colony of horrid bug-like insects ; my 
pockets were alive, my camera was full of them, they 



SANTO 149 

had crawled into my shoes, my books, my luggage, 
they were crawling, flying, dancing everywhere. 
Perfectly disgusted, I threw off all my clothes, and 
had my boys shake and clean out every piece. For 
a week I had to have everything cleaned at least 
once a day, and even then I found the loathsome 
creatures in every fold, under straps, in pouches. 

On that afternoon I had a great success as an 
artist. My drawings of pigs, trees and men went 
the rounds and were quite immoderately admired, 
and preserved as we would a sketch of Holbein's. 
These drawings have to be done as simply as possible 
and fairly large, else the natives do not understand 
them. They consider every line essential, and do 
not understand shadows or any impressionistic treat- 
ment. We must remember that in our civilized art 
we work with many symbols, some of which have 
but a vague resemblance to the object they represent, 
whose meaninor we know, while the savag-e does not. 
This was the reason why I had often no success at 
all with what I considered masterpieces, while the 
natives went into raptures over drawings I thought 
utter failures. At any rate, they made me quite a 
popular person. 

The sick chief complained to me that a late wife 
of his had been poisoned, and as he took me for a 
great "witch-doctor," he asked me to find out the 
murderer. To the native, sickness or death is not 
natural, but always the consequence of witchcraft, 
either on the part of enemies or spirits. The terribly 
high death-rate in the last years makes it seem all 



I50 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

the more probable that mysterious influences are at 
work, and the native suspects enemies everywhere, 
whom he tries to render harmless by killing them. 
This leads to endless murders and vendettas, which 
decimate the population nearly as much as the 
diseases do. The natives know probably something 
about poisons, but they are always poisons that have 
to be mixed with food, and this is not an easy thing 
to do, as every native prepares his food himself. 
Most of the dreaded poisons are therefore simply 
charms, stones or other objects, which would be quite 
harmless in themselves, but become capable of killing 
by the mere terror they inspire in the victim. If 
the belief in these charms could be destroyed, a great 
deal of the so-called poisoning would cease, and it 
may be a good policy to deny the existence of poison, 
even at the risk of letting a murderer go unpunished. 
I therefore felt justified in playing a little comedy, 
all the more as I was sure that the woman had 
died of consumption, and I promised the chief my 
assistance for the next morning. 

I had my bed made in the open air; even the 
boys would not enter the dirty house any more, and 
we slept well under the open sky, in spite of the 
pigs that grunted around us and the dew that fell 
like rain. 

Next day the chief called all the men together ; 
he was convinced that I could see through every 
one of them and tell who had done any wrong. So 
he made them all sit round me, and I looked very 
solemnly at each through the finder of my camera, 



SANTO I 5 I 

the chief watching carefully to see that I did not 
omit any one. The men felt uneasy, but did not 
quite know what to make of the whole performance. 
I naturally could not find anything wrong, and told 
the chief so, but he was not satisfied, and shook his 
head doubtfully. Then I talked to him seriously 
and tried to convince him that everyone had to 
die once, and that sickness was something natural, 
especially considering the filth in which they lived ; 
but I do not think my speech made much impres- 
sion. 

The men had now become very suspicious, the 
women were away, and I had great trouble in finding 
bearers and guides to the next village. A pleasant 
march brought us to this settlement, whose houses 
were close together in a big clearing. We were 
received very coolly by the chief and a few men. 
My bearers and guides would not be induced to 
accompany us farther, so that I had to ask for boys 
here ; but the chief said he had not a single able- 
bodied man, which I felt to be mere excuse. I also 
noticed that my own boys were very dissatisfied and 
sullen, and that something was in the wind. In 
order to raise their spirits, and not to leave our 
yam provisions behind, I had them cook the midday 
meal, but the sullen, threatening atmosphere remained 
the same. When it was time to continue our march, 
I heard them grumble and complain about their 
loads, and it all looked like rising mutiny. I was 
ahead with the chief, who had consented to show 
us the way, when the moli came after me and 



152 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

informed me that the boys were unwilling to go 
on, that they were afraid to go farther inland and 
were ready to throw their loads away. Later on I 
learned that two of the boys had tried to bribe 
some natives to show them the road back to the 
coast and leave me alone with the moli. I assembled 
the boys and made them a speech, saying that their 
loads were not too heavy nor the marches too long, 
that they were all free to return home, but would 
have to take the consequences, and that I and the 
moli would go on without them. If they liked, I 
said, they could throw away their tinned meats, I 
did not care, and the two bottles of grog were not 
meant for me, and we could easily spare those. I 
grasped the bottles and offered to smash them, but 
that was too much for the boys ; half crying, they 
begged me not to do that : the bottles were not too 
heavy, and they would gladly carry them as far as 
I liked. Hesitatingly I allowed myself to be per- 
suaded, and kindly desisted from the work of de- 
struction. I had won, but I had lost confidence in 
my boys, and was careful not to put their patience 
and fidelity to any more tests, conscious as I was of 
how much depended on their goodwill. After this 
episode they accomplished a long and tiresome march, 
up and down through thick bush on slippery clay, 
quite willingly. In the evening we reached a few 
huts in a clearing at a height of about 1200 feet, 
and went into camp for the night. 

While cooking, we heard dismal howling and 
weeping from a neighbouring hut ; it was a woman 



SANTO I 5 3 

mourning her husband, who had been dead ninety- 
nine days. To-morrow, on the hundredth day, there 
was to be a death-feast, to which all the neighbours 
were invited. Of course, this man, too, had been 
poisoned. 

The fire of revolt was smouldering in my boys. 
They sat round the camp-fire in groups, whispering 
and plotting, grumbling and undecided ; but I felt 
safe enough, as they were evidently divided into two 
parties, one faithful and the other mutinous, and the 
former seemed rather more influential. They proved 
their goodwill to me by delightful servility, and took 
excellent care of me. 

Next morning we were wakened by the howls 
of the unhappy widow, and soon the guests appeared, 
some from far off, and all bringing contributions to 
the feast. They killed several pigs, and while the 
men cut them up in a manner rather more clever 
than appetizing, the women prepared the fires by 
lighting large quantities of wood to heat the cooking- 
stones. This lasted several hours. Meanwhile, every 
person present received his share of a half-rotten 
smoked pig, of the freshly killed pigs, yam, taro and 
sweet potatoes. The women took the entrails of the 
pigs, squeezed them out, rolled them up in banana 
leaves, and made them ready for cooking. When 
the fire was burnt down they took out half of the 
stones with forks of split bamboo, and then piled up 
the food in the hole, first the fruit, then the meat, 
so that the grease should run over the fruit ; then the 
hole was covered with banana leaves, the hot stones 



154 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

piled on top and covered with more leaves. Food 
cooked in this way is done in three or four hours, so 
that the " stoves " are usually opened in the afternoon, 
and enormous quantities eaten on the spot, while the 
rest is put in baskets to take home. The amount 
a native can eat at one sitting is tremendous, and one 
can actually watch their stomachs swell as the meal 
proceeds. Violent indigestion is generally the conse- 
quence of such a feast. On the whole, no one seemed 
to be thinking much of the dead man in whose 
honour it was given, — such things are said to happen 
in civilized countries as well. 

I stayed in this village for another day, and many 
chiefs from the neighbourhood came to consult me, 
always complaining of the one thing — poison. Each 
secretly accused the others, each wanted me to try 
my glass on all the others. I did not like my reputa- 
tion of being a magician at all, as it made the people 
still more suspicious of me and more afraid of my 
instruments and my camera. 

These so-called chiefs were rather more intelligent 
than the average. Most of them had worked for 
whites at one time, and learned to speak pidgin- 
English ; but they were as superstitious as anyone 
else, and certainly greater rogues. They were naked 
and dirty, but some had retained some traces of 
civilization, one, for instance, always took off his old 
felt hat very politely, and made quite a civilized bow ; 
he must have been in Noumea in former days. 

There was no leprosy or elephantiasis here, but 
a great deal of tuberculosis, and very few children, 



SANTO I 5 5 

and nearly all the men complained that their women 
were unwilling to have any more children. 

From the next village I had a glimpse of the wild 
mountains of western Santo. I decided to spend 
the night here, left the boys behind, and went south- 
ward with the moli and a few natives. This was 
evidently the region where the volcanic and coral 
formations meet, for the character of the landscape 
suddenly changed, and instead of flat plateaux we 
found a wild, irregular country, with lofty hills and 
deep, narrow gullies. Walking became dangerous, 
though the path was fair. On top of a hill I found 
an apparently abandoned village, from which I could 
overlook all central Santo. To the west were the 
rugged, dark-looking mountains round Santo Peak, 
with white clouds floating on the summit, and a 
confusion of deep blue valleys and steep peaks ; 
northward lay the wild Jordan valley, and far away 
I could distinguish the silver mirror of Big Bay. 
All around us rose the silent, stern, lonely forest — 
imposing, unapproachable. 

On our way back to camp we rested beside a 
fresh creek which gaily squeezed its way through 
rocks and rich vegetation. A little tea and a tin of 
sardines were all the menu, but we enjoyed a delight- 
ful bath in the cool water, and had as good a wash as 
we could without soap. It was a great luxury after 
the hot days in the coral country without any water. 
While our things were drying in the bright sun, we 
lay in the moss near the rushing stream, and it was 
like a summer day at home in the mountains. The 



156 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

water sounded familiar, the soft, cool breeze was the 
same, and while I lay watching the white clouds 
through the bright foliage I dreamt of home. At 
home I had dreamt of travel, and thus one wish 
follows the other and the soul is preserved from lazy 
content. I almost fancied I heard the sound of bells 
and the far-away lowing of cattle. And again the 
reality seemed like a dream when I roused myself 
and saw the dark figures crouching on the rocks, 
with their frizzy mops of hair and their Sniders on 
their knees. 

The village turned out to be too dirty to spend 
the night in, and I decided to go to one which 
seemed quite near, just across a gully. Had I known 
what an undertaking it would be, I would not have 
started, for the ravine was very deep and the sides 
unpleasantly steep ; but my boys managed the descent, 
over rocks and fallen trees, with their usual clever- 
ness. At the bottom we were rewarded by a beautiful 
sight. Beneath us, in a narrow cut it had eaten 
through the rock, roared a river, foaming out of the 
depths of the dark wilderness. It was like one of the 
celebrated gorges in the Alps, only the tropical vegeta- 
tion which hung in marvellous richness and variety 
over the abyss gave a fairy-like aspect to the scene. 
The boys did not seem to appreciate it in the least, 
and prepared, sighing, for the steep ascent. A simple 
bridge led across the gully ; it was made of a few 
trees, and even provided with a railing in the shape 
of a vine. The existence of this bridge surprised me 
very much ; for, considering the thoughtless egotism 



SANTO 157 

with which the natives pass through life, I had 
thought them incapable of any work of public utility. 
They rarely think of repairing a road or cutting a vine, 
nor do they remove trees that may have fallen across 
the path, but always rely on others to see to it. 

The second village was not much cleaner than 
the first, but we camped there, and the next day I 
went with the moli and a few of my boys to the 
western mountains. The natives warned us, saying 
that the people were "no good" and would kill us. 
But, for one thing, I could not see that they them- 
selves were particularly "good," and, for another, I 
knew that all natives consider other tribes especially 
dangerous ; so I stuck to my intention, only we hung 
all our available weapons about us, leaving the rest 
of the boys defenceless. 

This turned out one of the most strenuous days 
I ever had in the islands, as the road — and what a 
road ! — constantly led up and down the steepest 
slopes. It seemed to me we were climbing perpen- 
dicular mountains all day long, and I had many an 
opportunity of admiring the agility of my companions. 
I am a fair walker myself, but I had to crawl on my 
hands and knees in many spots where they jumped 
from a stone to a root, taking firm hold with their 
toes, never using their hands, never slipping, and 
always with a loaded and cocked rifle on their 
shoulders. My boys from the coast, good pedestrians 
though they were, always remained far behind. 

First we reached well-tended taro fields, then a few 
scattered huts. The natives received us very kindly, 



158 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

and more men kept joining us, till we formed a big, 
jolly crowd. The population here seemed very 
primitive, and evidently had but little contact with 
the shore, but they were clean and comparatively 
healthy and flourishing, and I found them rather 
more frank, childlike and confiding than others I 
had seen. 

We roasted our yam, and while we were enjoying 
our frugal but delicious meal, I witnessed rather an 
amusing episode. A bushman, painted black for 
mourning, suddenly called to one of my boys, and 
wanted to shake hands with him. My boy, a respect- 
able "schoolboy," was visibly annoyed by the idea 
of having anything to do with a naked " man-bush," 
and behaved with icy reserve ; but he could not long 
resist the rural cordiality of the other, and presently 
resigned himself to his fate, and made friends. It 
turned out that they had once worked together in 
Vila, and one had become an elegant young swell, 
while the other returned to simple country life. 

On the way back we rested by the river-bank, 
amusing ourselves by shooting pigeons with pistols 
and guns, feeling quite peaceful and happy. But the 
sound of our shots had an unexpected effect in the 
village where I had left the rest of my boys. All 
the natives jumped to their feet, shouting, " Did we 
not tell you that they would kill your master ? Now 
you have heard them ; he is dead, and now we will see 
what you have in your boxes and divide it among 
ourselves." 

They approached my boys threateningly, where- 



SANTO 159 

upon they all ran away, with the exception of the 
ringleader of the mutineers of the last few days, who 
sat down on the box containing the trading-stock 
and said they had better go and see whether I was 
really dead before plundering my luggage. The situa- 
tion must have grown rather strained, until some one 
had the good sense to go and look out for us, where- 
upon he saw us sitting peacefully near the river 
below. This calmed the natives, they withdrew, much 
disappointed, and my boys returned and prepared 
everything for my arrival with remarkable zeal. I 
found dry clothes ready, and tea boiling, and was 
quite touched by so much thoughtfulness. I was not 
told of the day's occurrence till after my return to the 
coast, and perhaps it was just as well. 

By this time I had seen a good part of south-east 
Santo, and I was eager to visit the south-west, with 
Santo Peak. But without guides and with marked 
symptoms of home-sickness on the part of my boys, I 
decided it would not be wise to attempt it. The news 
that we were going to start for home revived the boys 
at once. With enormous alacrity they packed up 
next day and raced homeward with astonishing speed 
and endurance ; I had had to drag them along before, 
now I could hardly keep up with them. In two days 
we had reached the plain of the Jordan, had a delight- 
ful swim and a jolly last night in camp, free from 
pigs, dogs, fowls, fleas and bugs, — but not from 
mosquitoes ! 

The last day we strolled in and along the river, 
through the forest swarming with wild pigs and 



i6o WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

pigeons, while a huge colony of flying-foxes circled 
in the air, forming an actual cloud, and then we came 
to the shore, with the wide expanse of Big Bay 
peaceful in the evening sun. A painful walk on the 
sharp pebbles of the beach brought us home towards 
nightfall. 



CHAPTER VIII 
SANTO (contimied)— FY GMIES 

The term of service of my boys had now expired, 
and I had to look about for others. Happily, now 
that I was known in the region, I had less trouble, 
especially as I held out the prospect of a visit to 
Noumea. With six boys of my own and a few other 
men, I started on another journey. 

I had always suspected the existence of a race of 
pygmies in the islands, and had often asked the 
natives if they had ever seen "small fellow men." 
Generally they stared at me without a sign of in- 
telligence, or else began to tell fairy-tales of dwarfs 
they had seen in the bush, of little men with tails and 
goat's feet (probably derived from what they had heard 
of the devil from missionaries), all beings of whose 
existence they were perfectly convinced, whom they 
often see in the daytime and feel at night, so that it 
is very hard to separate truth from imagination. 

I had heard stories of a colony of tailed men 

near Mele, and that, near Wora, north of Talamacco, 

tailed men lived in trees ; that they were very shy 

and had long, straight hair. The natives pretended 

they had nearly caught one once. All this sounded 

interesting and improbable, and I was not anxious to 

start on a mere wild-goose chase. More exact in- 
II 



1 62 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

formation, however, was forthcoming. One of my 
servants told me that near a waterfall I could see 
shining out of a deep ravine far inland, there lived 
"small fellow men." 

It was an exceptionally stormy morning when we 
started, so that Mr. F. advised me to postpone my 
departure ; but in the New Hebrides it is no use to 
take notice of the weather, and that day it was so bad 
that it could not get any worse, which was some con- 
solation. Soon we were completely soaked, but we 
kept on along the coast to some huts, where we were 
to meet our guide. Presently he arrived, followed 
by a crowd of children, as they seemed to me, who 
joined our party. While climbing inland toward the 
high mountains, I asked the guide if he knew any- 
thing about the little people ; he told me that one 
of them was walking behind me. I looked more 
closely at the man in question, and saw that whereas 
I had taken him for a half-grown youth, he was 
really a man of about forty, and all the others who 
had come with him turned out to be full-grown but 
small individuals. Of course I was delighted with this 
discovery, and should have liked to begin measuring 
and photographing at once, had not the torrents of 
rain prevented. 

I may mention here that I found traces later on 
of this diminutive race in some other islands, but 
rarely in such purity as here. Everywhere else they 
had mingled with the taller population, while here they 
had kept somewhat apart, and represented an element 
by themselves, so that I was fortunate in having my 




-.■. ^ft^ 



WILD MOUNTAIN SCENERY IN THE DISTRICT OF THE 
PYGMY POPULATION. 



SANTO— PYGMIES 1 6 3 

attention drawn to them here, as elsewhere I might 
easily have overlooked them. 

The trail by which we were travelling was one of 
the worst I ever saw in the islands, and the weather 
did not improve. The higher up we went, the 
thicker was the focr ; we seemed to be movinfj in a 
slimy mass, breathing the air from a boiler. At noon 
we reached the lonely hut, where a dozen men and 
women squatted, shivering with cold and wet, crowded 
together under wretched palm-leaf mats, near a 
smoulderinci- fire. There were some children wedeed 
into the gaps between the grown-ups. Our arrival 
seemed to rouse these poor people from their misery 
a little ; one man after the other got up, yawning and 
chattering, the women remained sitting near the fire. 
We made them some hot tea, and then I began to 
measure and take pictures, to which they submitted 
quite good-humouredly. 

I was much struck by the fact of these men and 
women living together, a most unusual thing in a 
Melanesian district, where the separation of the sexes 
and the " Suque " rules are so rigorously observed. 

We started off once more in the icy rain, keeping 
along the crest of the hill, which was just wide enouo-h 
for the path. The mountain sloped steeply down on 
either side, the thick mist made an early twilight, we 
could only see the spot where we set our feet, while 
all the surroundings were lost in grey fog, so that 
we felt as though we were walking in a void, far 
above all the world. At nightfall we arrived at a 
solitary hut — the home of our com.panions. Alter 



1 64 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

having repaired the broken roof, my boys succeeded 
in lighting a fire, though how they did it is a mystery, 
as matches and everything else were soaked. Soon 
tea and rice were boiling, while I tried to dry my 
instruments, especially my camera, whose watertight 
case had not been able to resist the rain. Then I 
wrapped myself up in my blanket, sipped my tea 
and ate my rice, and smoked a few pipes. It cer- 
tainly is a reward for the day's work, that evening 
hour, lying satisfied, tired and dreamy, under the low 
roof of the hut, while outside the wind roars through 
the valley and the rain rattles on the roof, and a far- 
off river rushes down a gorge. The red fire paints 
the beams above me in warm colours, and in the 
dark corners the smoke curls in blue clouds. Around 
a second fire the natives lie in ecstatic laziness, 
smoking and talking softly, pigs grunt and dogs 
scratch busily about. 

In the morning the storm had passed, and I could 
see that the house was set on the slope of a high 
mountain, much as a chalet is, and that we were at 
the end of a wild ravine, from every side of which 
fresh rivulets and cascades came pouring. Owing to 
the mountainous character of the country there are 
no villages here, but numerous huts scattered all 
along the mountains, two or three families at the 
utmost living together. The structure of the houses, 
too, was different from those on the coast ; they had 
side walls and a basement of boulders, sometimes 
quite carefully built. Here men and women live 
together, and a separation of the fires does not seem 



SANTO— PYGMIES 165 

to exist, nor does the " Suque " seem to have pene- 
trated to this district. 

We passed several hamlets where the mode of 
life was the same as in this one. The dress of the 
men is the same as at the coast, except that they 
wind strings of shell-money about their waists in 
manifold rows. The women wear a bunch of leaves 
in front and behind. The weapons are the same as 
elsewhere, except that here we fmd the feathered 
arrows which arc such a rarity in the Pacific. It is 
surprising- to find these here, in these secluded valleys 
among the pygmy race, and only here, near Talamacco, 
nowhere else where the same race is found. It is an 
open question whether these feathered arrows are an 
original invention in these valleys, an importation or 
a remnant of an earlier culture. 

The population lives on the produce of the fields, 
mostly taro, which is grown in irrigated lands in the 
river bottoms. 

In appearance these people do not differ much 
from those of central Santo, who are by no means 
of a uniform type. The most important feature is 
their size, that of the men amounting to 152 cm., that 
of the women to 144 cm. The smallest man I 
measured was 138*0 cm., others measured i46"o, 
149-2, 144-2, 146-6, 140-6, 149-0, 139-6, 138-4 cm. 
The maximum size is hard to state, as even here the 
small variety has mixed with taller tribes, so that we 
find all the intermediate sizes, from the pygmy 139-6 
cm. high, to the tall Melanesian of 178-0 cm. My 
object, therefore, was to find a colony of pure pygmies. 



1 66 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

and I pursued it in many subsequent wanderings, but 
without success. The following description is based 
on the type as I constructed it in the course of my 
travels and observations. 

The hair is very curly, and seems black, but is 
in reality a dark, yellowish brown. Fil-fil is less 
frequent than among the tall variety. The forehead 
is straight, very slightly retreating, vaulted and rather 
narrow, the eyes are close together, straight, medium- 
sized and dark brown. The superciliar ridges are 
but slightly developed. The jaw-bones are large, 
but do not protrude, whereas the chewing muscles 
are well developed, which gives the face breadth, 
makes the chin-line round and the chin itself small 
and pointed. The mouth is not very large, with 
moderately thick lips, the nose is straight, hardly 
open toward the front, the nostrils not thick. As a 
rule, the growth of beard is not heavy, unlike that of 
the tall Melanesians ; there is only a light moustache, 
a few tufts at the chin and near the jaw. Up to the 
age of forty this is all ; in later years a heavier beard 
develops, but the face and the front of the chin 
remain free. 

Thus it will be seen that these people are not 
at all repulsive, as all the ridges of bone and the 
heavy muscle attachments which make the face of 
ordinary Melanesians so brutal are lacking. On the 
contrary, they look quite agreeable and childlike. 
Their bodies are vigorous, but lightly built : the chest 
broad and deep, the arms and legs fine, with beautiful 
delicate joints, the legs well proportioned, with hand- 



SANTO— PYGMIES 167 

some calves. Their feet are short and broad, especially 
in front, but the great toe does not stand off from the 
others noticeably. Thus the pygmy has none of the 
proportions of a child, and shows no signs of de- 
generation, but is of harmonious build, only smaller 
than other Melanesians. 

The shade of the skin varies a good deal from 
a dull purple, brownish-black, to coffee colour ; but 
the majority of individuals are light, and the dark ones 
probably inherited their shade from the tall race. 

Deformations of the body are not practised, save 
for an occasional perforation of the lobes of the ear. 
I never saw a perforation of the septum, nor women 
with incisors extracted. 

It seems as if the small race were better preserved 
here in Santo than the tall one. The diseases which 
destroy the other tribes are less frequent here, there 
are more children and a good number of women. 
All this may be due to a great extent to their living 
inland and not coming into touch with the unfavour- 
able sides of civilization as the coast tribes do, but 
even more to the hardy outdoor life in the mountains. 
In their country one cannot walk three steps on a 
level, and the whole population is expert in climbing, 
very sure-footed, thinking nothing of jumping with a 
heavy load from one rock to another, or racing at full 
speed down the steep and uneven slopes. 

In character, too, they differ from the tribes near 
the water. They seem less malicious and more con- 
fiding, and show less of the distrust and shy reserve 
of the average Melanesian. They will laugh and 



1 68 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

chat in the presence of strangers, and are very 
hospitable. I do not know if these are accidental 
impressions, but I can only say that I always felt 
safer and more comfortable in a village where the 
majority of the inhabitants belonged to the small 
race. 

With all this the pygmies are by no means 
helpless or even inferior, compared to their tall 
neighbours. Possibly, in former days, they may have 
been driven from their homes in the plains back into 
the mountains, but at present they are quite equal 
to the tall race, and the "salt-water men" are even 
a little afraid of their small neighbours inland. What 
they lack in size and strength they make up in speed 
and suppleness and temperament. The barrier be- 
tween the races has disappeared, and the mixing 
process is hastened by the fact that the small race 
frequently sells its women to the tall one. It is rare 
for a woman from the coast to settle in the mountains, 
still, it occurs frequently enough to alloy the purity of 
the pygmy race, and in no village have I found more 
than about 70 per cent, of real pygmies. 

In the afternoon we came to the chief's dwelling. 
The old man lived there alone with his wife, quietly 
and happily, venerated by all the other people. It 
was touching to see the little couple, delicate as two 
dolls, who seemed to love each other sincerely, a 
most uncommon occurrence in Melanesia. I really 
had too much respect for the old people to trouble 
them with my measuring instruments, but I could 
not resist taking their pictures. After consulting her 



SANTO— PYGMIES 169 

husband with a look of the greatest confidence, the 
old lady consented shyly, while he stood beside her 
as if it was an everyday event to him, and a sort of 
tribute I was paying- to his age and position and the 
beauty of his wife. 

From this point I had a fine view of the cascade 
that fell down in a wide silver ribbon through the 
forest. Some months later all that wild scenery was 
destroyed by an earthquake, which caused many land- 
slides and spoilt the cascade. Following the roaring 
river, jumping from one block of stone to another, 
we soon reached our camp, a large gamal. As we 
were nearing the coast its arrangements were adapted 
to the customs of the tall Melanesians. There were 
a few small individuals, but the tall race was pre- 
dominant. The reign of the " Suque " was evident by 
the floor of the gamal being divided by parallel sticks 
into compartments corresponding to the number of 
fires and castes, and each man sat down in his division 
and cooked his own food. 

Next day, after having waded through the cold 
water of the river, we arrived at the coast. From 
the last hills I sent a farewell look into the wild 
green tangle of forest, rocks, ravines, cascades and 
valleys, over which heavy rain-clouds were gathering. 
Before me the greyish-blue mirror of Big Bay lay 
in the mist, and in the Jordan valley the rain fell 
heavily. The high reed-grass all around us rustled 
dismally, and the damp cold was depressing. I 
hurried home and arrived there in the night, wet as 
when I had started on my expedition. 



I70 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

With regard to the pygmies I must not omit 
to mention the following experience. The fact that 
among them husband and wife live together, and 
that I had nowhere seen a man with two wives, made 
me suspect that this race was monogamous, as other 
pygmy races are. I made frequent inquiries, and 
was assured that each man was allowed but one wife. 
Still, I was not quite convinced, for it seemed strange 
to find a monogamous population in the midst of 
polygamous tribes. Others having given me similar 
information, I began to accept this theory as a fact. 
At last, however, I found I had been deceived, as 
all the people had taken me for a missionary, and 
had fancied I was asking them questions in order to 
interfere with their matrimonial customs by sending 
them a teacher or a " mission-police-man," My error 
was cleared up, thanks to the investigations of a trader, 
for which I am much indebted to him. 



CHAPTER IX 
SANTO (continued)— FIGS 

The sun had hardly risen, yet the air hung heavy 
in the shrubs surrounding my sleeping-hut. Damp 
heat and light poured into the shed-like room, where 
hundreds of Hies and as many mosquitoes sought an 
entrance into my mosquito-net. It was an atmo- 
sphere to sap one's energy ; not even the sunshine, so 
rare in these parts, had any attraction for me, and 
only the long-drawn " Sail ho ! " of the natives, 
announcing the arrival of the steamer, had power to 
drive me out of bed. 

She soon came to anchor and sent a boat ashore, 
and when I entered my host's house, I found some of 
the ship's officers there, ready for business and 
breakfast. Probably to drown the touch of home- 
sickness that the arrival of a steamer brings to those 
who are tied to the islands, our host set about 
emptying his cellar with enthusiasm and perseverance, 
while the visitors would have been satisfied with 
much smaller libations, as they had many more 
stations to visit that day. 

While the crew was loading the coprah and land- 
ing a quantity of goods, the host started his beloved 
gramophone for . the general benefit, and a fearful 
hash of music drifted out into the waving palms. 



172 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

Presently some one announces that the cargo is all 
aboard, whereupon the supercargo puts down his 
paper and remarks that they are in a hurry. A 
famous soprano's wonderful high C is ruthlessly 
broken off short, and we all run to the beach and 
jump on the backs of boys, who carry us dry-shod 
to the boat. We are rowed to the steamer, and 
presently descend to the storeroom, which smells of 
calico, soap, tobacco and cheese. Anything may be 
bought here, from a collar-button to a tin of meat, 
from perfumery to a shirt, anything, — and sometimes 
even the very thing one wants. We provide for the 
necessities of life for the next month or two, hand 
over our mail and end our visit with a drink. Then 
the whistle blows, we scramble into the boat, and 
while my host waves his hat frantically and shouts 
"good-bye," the steamer gradually disappears from 
sight. My friend has "a bad headache" from all the 
excitement of the morning. I guide him carefully 
between the cases and barrels the steamer has 
brought, and deposit him in his bunk ; then I retire to 
my own quarters to devour my mail. 

Some days after this we went to see a " sing-sing " 
up north. We rowed along the shore, and as my 
host was contributing a pig, we had the animal with 
us. With legs and snout tightly tied, the poor beast 
lay sadly in the bottom of the boat, occasionally 
trying to snap the feet of the rowers. The sea and 
the wind were perfect, and we made good speed ; in 
the evening we camped on the beach. The next day 



SANTO— PIGS 173 

was just as fine ; my host continued the journey by 
boat, while I preferred to walk the short distance that 
remained, accompanied by the pig, whose health did 
not seem equal to another sea-voyage in the blazing 
sun. It was touching to see the tenderness with 
which the natives treated the victim-elect, giving it 
the best of titbits, and urging it with the gentlest of 
words to start on the walk. It was quite a valuable 
animal, with good-sized tusks. After some hesitation 
the pig suddenly rushed off, Sam, his keeper, behind. 
First it raced through the thicket, which I did not 
like, so I proposed to Sam to pull the rope on the 
energetic animal's leg ; but Sam would not damp its 
splendid enthusiasm for fear it might balk afterwards. 
Sam managed, however, to direct it back into the 
path, but we had a most exhausting and exciting, if 
interesting, walk, for the pig was constantly rushing, 
sniffing, grunting and digging on all sides, so that 
Sam was entirely occupied with his charge, and it 
was quite impossible to converse. At last we 
proudly entered the village, and the beast was tied 
in the shade ; we separated, not to meet again till 
the hour of sacrifice. 

I was then introduced to the host, a small but 
venerable old man, who received me with diornified 

o 

cordiality. We could not talk together, but many 
ingratiating smiles assured each of the other's 
sympathy. The village seemed extremely pleasant 
to me, which may have been due to the bright sun 
and the cool breeze. The square was situated on the 
beach, which sloped steeply to the sea. Along the 



174 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

ridge were planted brightly-coloured trees, and be- 
tween their trunks we could see the ocean, heavenly 
blue. On the other side were the large, well-kept 
gamals, and crowds of people in festival attire ; many 
had come from a distance, as the feast was to be a 
big one, with plenty to eat for everybody. 

Palo, the host, was very busy looking after his 
guests and giving each his share of good things. He 
was a most good-natured, courteous old gentleman, 
although his costume consisted of nothing but a few 
bunches of ferns. The number of guests increased 
steadily ; besides the real heathen in unadorned 
beauty, there were half-civilized Christians, ugly in ill- 
fitting European clothes, of which they were visibly 
vain, although they made blots on the beautiful 
picture of native life. All around the square grunted 
the tusked pigs. 

At noon four men o-ave the sisi'nal for the beo"in- 
ning of the festivities by beating two big drums, 
which called the guests to dinner. Palo had sent us 
a fowl cooked native fashion between hot stones, and, 
like everything cooked in this way, it tasted very 
delicious. Shortly afterwards the real ceremonies 
began, with the killing of about two hundred young 
female pigs which had been kept in readiness in little 
bamboo sheds. 

Accompanied by the drums, Palo led all the high- 
castes in dancing steps out of the gamal and round 
the square. After a few turns the chiefs drew up in 
line in front of him, and he mounted a stone table, 
while everyone else kept on dancing. His favourite 



SANTO— PIGS 175 

wife was next to the table, also dancing. Palo was 
entirely covered with ferns, which were stuck in his 
hair, his bracelets and his belt. He still looked quite 
venerable, but with a suggestion of a faun, a Bacchus 
or a Neptune. It was a warm day, and the dancing 
made everybody perspire more than freely. 

Now one of the other men took hold of a little 
pig by the hind-legs and threw it in a lofty curve 
to one of the dancing chiefs, who caught the little 
animal, half stunned by the fall, and, still dancing, 
carried it to Palo, who killed it by three blows on the 
head, whereupon it was laid at his feet. This went 
on for a long time. It was a cruel sight. Squealing 
and shrieking, the poor animals flew through the air, 
fell heavily on the hard earth, and lay stunned or 
tried to crawl away with broken backs or legs. Some 
were unhurt, and ran off, but a bloodthirsty crowd 
was after them with clubs and axes, and soon brought 
them back. Still, one man thought this troublesome, 
and broke the hind-legs of each pig before throwing 
it to the chief, so that it might not escape. It was 
horrible to see and hear the bones break, but the lust 
for blood was upon the crowd, and on all sides there 
were passionate eyes, distorted faces and wild yells. 
Happily the work was soon done, and in front of 
Palo lay a heap of half-dead, quivering animals. He 
and his wife now turned their backs to the assembly, 
while a few high-castes counted the corpses. For 
each ten one lobe was torn off a sicca-leaf, then the 
missing lobes were counted, and after a puzzling 
calculation, the result was announced. Palo turned 



176 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

round and descended from his pedestal with much 
dignity, though panting from his exertions, and 
looking so hot that I feared an apoplexy for the old 
man. I did not know how tough such an old heathen 
is, nor that his efforts were by no means at an end. 
Noblesse oblige and such high caste as Palo's is not 
attained without trouble. 

As female pigs may not be eaten, those just killed 
were thrown into the sea by the women ; meanwhile, 
the chiefs blew a loud blast on the shell-bugles, to 
announce to all concerned that Palo's first duty was 
accomplished. The deep yet piercing tones must 
have sounded far into the narrow valleys round. 

Then poles were driven into the ground, to which 
the tusked pigs were tied. Some were enormous 
beasts, and grunted savagely when anyone came near 
them. I saw my companion of the morning lying 
cheerfully grunting in the shade of a tree. Now 
came a peculiar ceremony, in which all who had 
contributed pigs were supposed to take part. To 
my disappointment, Mr. F. refused to join in. Palo 
took up his position on the stone table, armed with 
a club. Out of a primitive door, hastily improvised 
out of a few palm-leaves, the chiefs came dancing in 
single file, swinging some weapon, a spear or a club. 
Palo jumped down, danced towards them, chased 
each chief and finally drove them, still dancing, back 
through the door. This evidently symbolized some 
fight in which Palo was the victor. After having 
done this about twenty times, Palo had to lead all 
the chiefs in a long dance across the^square, passing 



SANTO— PIGS 177 

in high jumps between the pigs. After this he 
needed a rest, and no wonder. Then the pigs were 
sacrificed with mysterious ceremonies, the meaning 
of which has probably never been penetrated. The 
end of it all was that Palo broke the pigs' heads with 
a special club, and when night fell, twenty-six 
" tuskers " lay agonizing on the ground. Later they 
were hung on trees, to be eaten next day, and then 
everybody retired to the huts to eat and rest. 

Some hours later great fires were kindled at both 
ends of the square, and women with torches stood all 
around. The high-castes opened the ball, but there 
was not much enthusiasm, and only a few young- 
sters hopped about impatiently, until their spirits 
infected some older people, and the crowd increased, 
so that at last everybody was raving in a mad dance. 
The performance is monotonous : some men with 
pan-pipes bend down with their heads touching, and 
blow with all their might, always the same note, 
marking time with their feet. Suddenly one gives 
a jump, others follow, and then the whole crowd 
moves a number of times up and down the square, 
until the musicians are out of breath, when they come 
to a standstill. The excitement goes on until the 
sun rises. The women, as a rule, keep outside the 
square, but they dance too, and keep it up all night ; 
now and then a couple disappears into the darkness. 

Next morning Palo, who had hardly closed his 
eyes all night, was very busy again, giving each 
guest his due share of the feast. The large pigs 
were dressed, cut up and cooked. This work lasted 



178 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

all day, but everybody enjoyed it. The dexterity 
and cleanliness with which the carcases are divided 
is astonishing, and is quite a contrast to the crude 
way in which native meals are usually dressed and 
devoured. We whites received a large and very fat 
slice as a present, which we preferred to pass on, 
unnoticed, to our boys. Fat is considered the best 
part of the pig. 

The lower jaws of the tuskers were cut out 
separately and handed over to Palo, to be cleaned 
and hung up in his gamal in the shape of a chandelier, 
as tokens of his rank. 

Palo is a weather-maker. When we prepared to 
go home, he promised to smooth the sea, which was 
running too high for comfort, and to prevent a head- 
wind. We were duly grateful, and, indeed, all his 
promises were fulfilled : we had a perfectly smooth 
sea, and such a dead calm that between the blue sky 
and the white sea we nearly fainted, and had to row 
wearily along instead of sailing. Just as we were 
leaving, Palo came to the bank, making signs for us 
to come back, a pretty custom, although it is not 
always meant sincerely. 

Late at night we arrived at home once more. 



CHAPTER X 

CLIMBING SANTO TEAK 

Some days later I left Talamacco for Wora, near 
Cape Cumberland, a small station of Mr. D.'s, Mr. F.'s 
neighbour. What struck me most there were the 
wide taro fields, artificially irrigated. The system of 
irrigation must date from some earlier time, for it is 
difficult to believe that the population of the present 
day, devoid as they are of enterprise, should have 
laid it out, although they are glad enough to use it. 
The method employed is this : Across one of the 
many streams a dam of great boulders is laid, so that 
about the same amount of water is constantly kept 
running into a channel. These channels are often 
very long, they skirt steep slopes and are generally 
cut into the earth, sometimes into the rock ; some- 
times a little aqueduct is built of planks, mud and 
earth, supported by bamboo and other poles that 
stand in the valley. In the fields the channel 
usually divides into several streams, and runs through 
all the flat beds, laid out in steps, in which the taro 
has only to be lightly stuck to bring forth fruit in 
about ten months. Taro only grows in very swampy 
ground, some varieties only under water, so that it 
cannot be grown in the coral region, where there is 
plenty of rain, but no running water. In these 

X79 



i8o WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

districts yam is the principal food, while we find 
taro in the mountains of primary rock. Both are 
similar in taste to the potato. 

My next journey led me across the peninsula to 
the west coast of Santo. As usual, it was a very 
rainy day when we started, but once across the divide 
the air became much drier. The clouds, driven by 
the south-east trade-wind, strike the islands on the 
east side, and this is the reason why the east coast 
is so much damper than the west, and why the 
vegetation is so immoderately thick on the one side, 
and much less luxuriant on the other. On the west 
side the bush is thinner and there are wide stretches 
of reed-grass, but there is plenty of water, bright 
creeks fed by the rainfall on the mountains. Here, 
on the coast, it was much warmer than where we had 
come from, but the air was most agreeable, dry and 
invigorating, quite different from the damp, heavy 
air on the other side. 

Late at night, after a long walk on the warm 
beach sand, we reached the village of Nogugu. 
Next day Mr. G., a planter, was good enough to 
take me with him in his motor-boat, southward along 
the coast. High mountains came close to the shore, 
falling in almost perpendicular walls straight down 
into the sea. Deep narrow valleys led inland into 
the very heart of the island. Several times, when we 
were passing the openings of these valleys, a squall 
caught us, and rain poured down ; then, again, every- 
thing lay in bright sunshine and the coast was pictur- 



CLIMBING SANTO PEAK r8i 

esque indeed with its violet shadows and reddish 
rocks. The only level ground to be seen was at 
the mouths of the valleys in the shape of little river 
deltas. 

The village to which we were going was on one 
of these deltas. Hardly had we set foot on shore 
than a violent earthquake almost threw us to the 
ground. The shock lasted for at least thirty seconds, 
then we heard a dull rumblin^jf as of thunder, and saw 
how all along the coast immense masses of earth fell 
into the sea from the high cliffs, so that the water 
boiled and foamed wildly. Then yellow smoke came 
out of all the bays, and hung in heavy clouds over 
the devastated spots, and veiled land and sea. Inland, 
too, we saw many bare spots, where the earth and 
trees had slipped down. The shocks went on all 
night, though with diminished violence, and we 
continually heard the thunderous rattling of falling 
rocks and earth. 

Next day we stopped at the village of Wus, and 
I persuaded a dainty damsel (she was full-grown, 
but only i34'4 cm. high) to make me a specimen 
of pottery. It was finished in ten minutes, without 
any tool but a small, flat, bamboo splinter. Without 
using a potter's wheel the lady rounded the sides 
of the jar very evenly, and altogether gave it a 
most pleasing, almost classical shape. 

When we returned south we could see what 
damage the earthquake had done. All the slopes 
looked as if they had been scraped, and the sea was 
littered with wood and bushes. We also experienced 



1 82 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

the disagreeable sensation of an earthquake on the 
water. The boat suddenly began to shake and 
tremble, as if a giant hand were shaking it, and at 
the same time more earth fell down into the water. 
The shocks recurred for several weeks, and after a 
while we became accustomed to them. The vibra- 
tions seemed to slacken and to become more 
horizontal, so that we had less of the feeling of 
being pushed upwards off our feet, but rather that 
of being in an immense swing. For six weeks I 
was awakened almost every night by dull, threaten- 
ing thunder, followed some seconds later by a shock. 

Another village where pottery was made was 
Pespia, a little inland. The chief obligingly gathered 
the scattered population, and I had ample opportunity 
to buy pots and watch the making of them. The 
method is different from that at Wus, for a primitive 
wheel, a segment of a thick bamboo, is used. On 
this the clay is wound up in spirals and the surface 
smoothed inside and out. This is the method by 
which most of the prehistoric European pottery was 
made. The existence of the potter's art in these 
two villages only of all the New Hebrides is surpris- 
ing. Clay is found in other districts, and the idea 
that the natives might have learnt pottery from the 
Spaniards lacks all probability, as the Spaniards 
never visited the west coast of Santo. The two 
entirely different methods offer another riddle. 

I made my way back along the coast, round 
Cape Cumberland. One of my boys having run 
away, I had to carry his load myself, and although 



CLIMBING SANTO PEAK 183 

it was not the heaviest one, I was glad when I found 
a substitute for him. This experience gave me an 
insight into the feeHngs of a tired and discontented 
carrier. 

At Wora I found that my host had returned 
to his station near Talamacco. So I returned to 
Talamacco by boat ; the earthquake had been very 
violent there, and had caused the greatest damage, 
and I heard that all the new houses of the Messrs. 
Thomas at Hog Harbour had been ruined. 

Times had been troublous in other respects at 
Talamacco ; the natives, especially the Christians, 
were fighting, and one Sunday they were all ready, 
looking very fierce, to attack each other with clubs 
and other weapons, only neither side dared to begin. 
I asked them to do the fighting out in the open, so 
that I could take a picture of it, and this cooled 
them down considerably. They sat down and began 
a long palaver, which ended in nothing at all, and, 
indeed, no one really knew what had started the 
excitement. 

In spite of the supercargo's announcement that 
the steamer would arrive on the twentieth, she did 
not come till the first of the following month. This 
kept me constantly on the look out and ready for 
departure, and unable to do anything of importance. 
At last we sailed, touching the Banks Islands on 
our route ; and after enjoying a few days of civiliza- 
tion on board, I went ashore at Tassimaloun, on 
the south-west corner of Santo, where I had the 
pleasure of being Mr. C.'s guest. My object there 



1 84 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

was to follow the traces of the pygmy population, 
but as the natives mostly live inland, and only rarely 
come to the coast, I had to go in search of them. 
At that time I was often ill with fever, and could 
not do as much as I could have wished. Once I 
tried to reach the highest mountain of the islands, 
Santo Peak, but my guides from the mission village 
of Vualappa led me for ten days through most un- 
interesting country and an unfriendly population 
without even bringing me to the foot of the 
mountain. I had several unpleasant encounters with 
the natives, during one of which I fully expected 
to be murdered, and when our provisions were ex- 
hausted we had to return to the coast. But every 
time I saw the tall pyramid of Santo Peak rising 
above the lower hills I longed to be the first 
European to set foot on it, and I tried it at last 
from the Tassiriki side. 

After long consultations with the natives, I at 
last found two men who were willing to guide me to 
the mountain. I decided to give up all other plans, 
and to take nothing with me but what was strictly 
necessary. On the second day we climbed a hill which 
my guides insisted was the Peak, the highest point 
of the island. I pointed out a higher summit, but 
they said that we would never get up there before 
noon, and, indeed, they did everything they could 
to delay our advance, by following wrong trails and 
being very slow about clearing the way. Still, after 
an hour's hard work, we were on the point in 
question, and from there I could see the real Santo 



CLIMBING SANTO PEAK 185 

Peak, separated from us by only one deep valley, 
as far as I could judge in the tangle of forest that 
covered everything. The guides again pretended 
that we were standin<r on the hij^hest mountain 
then, and that it would take at least a fortnight to 
reach the real Peak. I assured them that I meant 
to be on its top by noon, and when they showed 
no inclination whatever to go on, I left them and 
went on with my boys. We had to dive into a 
deep ravine, where we found a little water and 
refilled our bottles. Then we had to ascend the 
other side, which was trying, as we had lost the 
trail and had to climb over rocks and through the 
thickest bush I ever met. The ground was covered 
with a dense network of moss-grown trunks that 
were mouldering there, through which we often fell 
up to our shoulders, while vines and ferns wound 
round our bodies, so that we did our climbing more 
with our arms than with our feet. After a while 
one of the guides joined us, but he did not know 
the way ; at last we found it, but there were many 
ups and downs before we attained the summit. The 
weather now changed, and we were suddenly sur- 
rounded by the thick fog that always covers the 
Peak before noon. The great humidity and the 
altitude combine to create a peculiar vegetation 
in this region ; the tree-ferns are tremendously 
developed, and the natives pretend that a peculiar 
species of pigeon lives here. 

I was surprised to find any paths at all up here ; 
but the natives come here to shoot pigeons, and 



1 86 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

several valleys converge at Santo Peak, so that 
there are important passes near its summits. One 
of my boys gave out here, and we left him to repose. 
The rest of the way was not difficult, but we were 
all very tired when we reached the top. There 
was another summit, a trifle higher, separated from 
the first by a long ridge, but we contented ourselves 
with the one we were on, especially as we could see 
absolutely nothing. I was much disappointed, as 
on a clear day the view of Santo and the whole 
archipelago must be wonderful. I deposited a bottle 
with a paper of statistics, which some native has 
probably found by this time. We were wet and 
hungry, and as it was not likely that the fog would 
lift, we began the descent. Without the natives I 
never could have found the way back in the fog ; 
but they followed the path easily enough, and half- 
way down we met the other guides coming slowly 
up the mountain. They seemed pleased to have 
escaped the tiresome climb ; possibly they may have 
had other reasons for their dislike of the Peak. 
They were rather disappointed, I thought, that I 
had had my way in spite of their resistance. They 
now promised to lead us back by another route, 
and we descended a narrow valley for several hours ; 
then came a long halt, as my guides had to chat 
with friends in a village we passed. At last I fairly 
had to drive them away, and we went down another 
valley, where we found a few women bathing in a 
stream, who ran away at the sight of us. We 
bathed, and then enjoyed an excellent meal of taro, 



CLIMBING SANTO PEAK 187 

which one of the cruides had broug^ht from the villajje. 
Before leaving, one of my boys carefully collected 
all the peelings of my food, and threw them into 
the river, so that I might not be poisoned by them, 
he said. A last steep climb ended the day's exer- 
tions, and we entered the village where we were to 
sleep. While the guides bragged to the men of 
their feats, the women brought us food and drink, 
and I had a chance to rest and look about me. 

I was struck by the great number of women and 
the very small number of men in this place ; after a 
while I found out the reason, which was that ten of 
the men had been kidnapped by a Frenchman while 
on their way to a plantation on the Segond Channel, 
where they meant to work a few days. The women 
are now deprived of their husbands for at least three 
years, unless they find men in some other village. If 
five of the ten ever return, it will be a good average, 
and it is more than likely that they will find a deserted 
and ruined village if they do come back. 

This is one of many illustrations of how the 
present recruiting system and the laxity of the French 
authorities combine to ruin the native population. (I 
have since heard that by request of the British 
authorities these men were brought back, but only 
after about nine months had passed, and without 
receiving any compensation. Most kidnapping cases 
never come to the ears of the authorities at all.) 

As our expedition was nearly at an end, and I had 
no reason to economize my provisions, I gave some 
to the villagers, and the women especially who had 



1 88 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

hardly ever tasted rice or tinned meat, were delighted. 
One old hag actually made me a declaration of love, 
which, unfortunately, I could not respond to in the same 
spirit. 

Night crept across the wide sea, and a golden 
sunset was followed by a long afterglow. Far away 
on the softly shining silver we saw a sail, small as a 
fly, that drifted slowly seaward and was swallowed up 
by the darkness, from which the stars emerged one 
by one. The women had disappeared in the huts ; 
the men were sitting outside, around the fires, and, 
thinking I was asleep, talked about me in biche la mar. 

First they wondered why a man should care to 
climb up a mountain simply to come down again ; and 
my boys told them of all my doings, about my collect- 
ing curios and skulls, of my former wanderings and 
the experiences we had had, and how often the others 
had tried to shoot me, etc. In short, I found out a 
great many things I had never known, and I shivered 
a little at hearing what I had escaped, if all the boys 
said was true. At last, when I had been sufficiently dis- 
cussed, which was long after midnight, they lay down, 
each beside a small fire, and snored into the cool, clear 
night. 

The following morning was brilliantly fine. We 
took a hearty leave of our hosts, and raced, singing 
and shouting, down the steep hills, and so home. 
The fine weather was at an end. The sky was 
cloudy, the barometer fell and a thin rain pierced 
everything. Two days later the steamer arrived, and 
I meant to go aboard, but a heavy swell from the 



CLIMBING SANTO PEAK 189 

west set in, such as I had never seen before, although 
not a breath of wind was stirring. These rollers were 
caused by a cyclone, and gave us some idea of its 
violence. I despaired of ever reaching the steamer, 
but Mr. B. was an expert sailor, and making the 
most of a slight lull, he brought me safely through 
the surf and on board. His goods, however, could 
not be loaded on to the steamer, which immediately 
sailed. We passed New Year's Eve and New Year's 
Day at anchor in South- West Bay, Malekula, while a 
terrific gale whipped the water horizontally toward 
the ship and across the deck. We spent gloomy 
holidays, shut up in the damp, dark steamer, unable 
to stay on deck, restless and uncomfortable below. 
How one learns to appreciate the British impassive- 
ness which helps one, in such conditions, to spend a 
perfectly happy day with a pipe and a talk about the 
weather ! 

On the morning of the third day we lay off the 
east coast of Malekula, on a blue, shining sea, with 
all the landscape as peaceful and bright as if there 
were no such thing as a cyclone in the world. 

I landed, packed my collections, which I had left 
in Vao, and, with the help of a missionary, I reached 
Bushman Bay, whence Mr. H. kindly took me to 
Vila. There H.B.M. Resident Commissioner, Mr. 
Morton King, did me the honour of offering me his 
hospitality, so that I was suddenly transplanted to 
all the luxuries of civilized life once more. I spent 
the days packing the collections awaiting me at Vila, 
and which I found in fairly good condition ; the 



I90 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

evenings were passed in the interesting society of 
Mr. King, who had travelled extensively and was an 
authority on matters relating to the Orient. He 
inspired me with admiration for the British system of 
colonial politics with its truly idealistic tendencies. 
The weeks I spent at Port Vila will always be a 
pleasant memory of a time of rest and comfort and 
stimulating intercourse. 

In February I left for Noumea, where I hoped to 
meet two friends and colleagues, Dr. Fritz Sarasin 
and Dr. Jean Roux, who were coming to New 
Caledonia in order to pursue studies similar to mine. 
The time I spent with them was rich in interest and 
encouragement, and in March I returned to the New 
Hebrides with renewed energy. 






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CHAPTER XI 

AMHKV.M 

It was a miserable little boat in which I sailed from 
Noumea. We were to have started on a Monday, 
but it was Friday before we got off. The boat was 
overloaded. On deck there was a quantity of timber, 
also cattle, pigs, sheep and calves, all very seasick 
and uncomfortable. The deck was almost on a level 
with the water, and even while still inside the reef 
occasional waves broke over the gunwale and flooded 
the ship. At nightfall we entered the open ocean. 
Now the waves began to pour on to the deck from 
all sides, and the bow of the vessel dived into the sea 
as if it were never going to rise again. The night 
was dark, shreds of cloud raced across a steel-grey 
sky, while a greenish patch showed the position of 
the moon. At the horizon glistened an uncertain 
light, but the sea was a black abyss, out of which 
the phosphorescent waves appeared suddenly, rolled 
swiftly nearer and broke over the ship as if poured 
down from above. 

I looked on without another thought save that 
of pity for the poor sick calves, when the captain 
whispered in my ear that things looked bad, as the 
ship was much too heavily loaded. In the darkness 
I could see nothing but that the boat was very deep 



192 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

in the water, and that her bow, instead of rising on 
the waves, dug into them. On deck a quantity of 
water ran backward and forward in a wave as high 
as the bulwarks, and it seemed as if the ship could 
scarcely right herself when once she lay over on one 
side. The growing excitement of the captain, his 
nervous consultations with the engineer and the super- 
cargo, were most uncomfortable ; presently the 
passengers began to take part in the deliberations, 
and to observe the behaviour of the ship. As our 
course gave us a sidewise current, the captain ordered 
the sails to be hoisted, in order to lessen the rolling ; 
but the sea was too heavy, and we shipped still more 
water and rolled alarmingly. The captain sighed, ran 
hither and thither, then lowered the sails and took a 
more westerly course, in the direction of one of the 
Loyalty Islands ; thus we had the current from 
behind, which made things still worse, as the sea, 
rolling along the ship, filled the deck from both sides ; 
and as the bulwarks were blocked up by the lumber, 
the water could not run off, thus adding an enormous 
weight to the already overloaded ship ; the water ran 
forward, pressing down the bow, while the stern 
reared upward. 

When the captain saw the state of affairs, he lost 
his head completely, and began to lament piteously : 
" We do not want to drown, no, we do not want to 
drown ; but we are going to. Oh, my poor wife and 
children ! Do you like to drown, doctor ? " I denied 
this energetically, but I could not help looking at the 
dark sea and trying to get used to the idea of a closer 



AMBRYM 193 

acquaintance with it. The feeling of insecurity was in- 
creased by tlie knowledge that the boat was old and in 
poor repair, and might spring a leak at any moment. 

Meanwhile the skipper had turned her round and 
was making headway against the waves, but still her 
bow would not lift, and the captain wept still more. 
His womanish behaviour disgusted me. At last a quiet 
passenger, an experienced sailor, gave some advice, 
which the skipper followed, and which helped matters 
a little, so that he regained his self-control to the 
extent of calling a general council ; he announced 
that he dared not continue the voyage, and asked 
our consent to return to Noumea. We all agreed, 
and about midnight we approached the reef. Now 
there are lights in the passage, but they are so poor 
as to be invisible until the traveller is already in 
the passage, so that they are of little use. We were 
trying to find the entrance, when the experienced 
seaman I mentioned before, who was keeping a 
look out, called out that we were close to the breakers 
and surrounded by the reef. The only thing we 
could do was to turn seaward again and beat about 
till daylight. After some hours the wind fell and 
the worst was over ; still, the night was unpleasant 
enough, and frequent squalls kept us awake. We 
were all glad when the day broke and we were 
able to enter the passage. We landed at Noumea 
in the finest of weather, and our unexpected return 
created quite a sensation. We passengers convinced 
ourselves that the cargo was considerably reduced 
before starting out again the next day. 
»3 



194 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

This time we arrived safely at Port Vila, where 
the British and French native police forces came 
aboard, bound for Santo, to quell a disturbance at 
Hog Harbour ; and so the hapless boat was over- 
loaded again, this time with passengers. 

Next day we arrived at Epi, and I landed at 
Ringdove Bay. The station of the Messrs. F. and H. 
is one of the oldest in the islands. Besides running 
a plantation, they trade with the natives, and their 
small cutters go to all the neighbouring islands for 
coprah and other produce. There is always plenty 
of life and movement at the station, as there are 
usually a few of the vessels lying at anchor, and 
natives coming in from all sides in their whale-boats 
to buy or sell something. From Malekula one can 
often see them tacking about all day, or, if there is 
a calm, drifting slowly along, as they are too lazy to 
row. When they have found the passage through 
the reef, they pull down the sails with much noise and 
laughter, and come to anchor ; then the whole crowd 
wades through the surf to the shore, with the loads of 
coprah, and waits patiently for business to begin. 

On these stations, where almost everyone is 
squeezed into decent European clothes, it is a 
charming sight to see the naked bodies of the 
genuine savages, all the more so as only young 
and able-bodied men take part in these cruises, 
under the leadership of one older and more ex- 
perienced companion. Their beauty is doubly 
striking beside the poor station hands, wrapped 
in filthy calico. 



AMBRYM 195 

When the coprah has been bought and paid for, 
they all go to the store, where they buy whatever 
they need or think they need. The native of the 
coast districts to-day goes beyond needs to luxuries ; 
he buys costly silks, such as he may once have seen 
in Queensland, and he samples sewing-machines or 
whatever else tempts him. In consequence of com- 
petition, the prices for coprah and the wages of labour 
are unreasonably high, and the natives might profit 
greatly by this state of things if they knew the value 
of money or how to use it to advantage. But, as a 
rule, they spend it for any nonsense they may fancy, 
to the joy of the trader, who makes an average profit 
of 50 per cent, on all commodities ; or else the natives 
economize to buy a pig (tusked pigs have brought as 
much as forty pounds), or they bury their money. 

It is astonishing how easily a native might make 
a small fortune here, and how little use he makes of 
his opportunities, not only from laziness, but also 
because he has no wants. Nature supplies food in 
abundance without any effort on his part, so that 
matches, tobacco, a pipe and a knife satisfy all his 
needs, and he can spend all the rest of his money 
for pleasure. Thus the native, in spite of everything, 
is economically master of the situation in his own 
country, and many traders have been made to realize 
this fact to their cost, when the natives, to avenge 
some ill-treatment, have simply boycotted a station. 
Needless to say that the traders always do their best 
to excite the natives' cupidity by exhibiting the most 
tempting objects, and, careful as the islander may be 



196 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

when buying necessaries, he is careless enough when 
luxuries are in question. 

The house of the planters is a long, low building 
with whitewashed walls, a broad, flat roof and wide 
verandas. Around it is an abandoned garden, and 
one feels that long ago a woman's hand must have 
worked here ; but now no one cares about keeping 
the surroundings clean and pretty, and the wilderness 
is reclaiming its own and advancing steadily towards 
the house. I nside, the house is clean and neat ; from 
the veranda there is a splendid view over the sea, in 
which the sun disappears at evening. 

The employes are quiet people, who have but 
little to say ; the weather and speculations as to the 
name and destination of some far-off sail are their 
chief topics. After lunch they sit in easy-chairs, 
enjoying the breeze and reading the papers. Soon 
the " Bubu " calls to work once more, and the natives 
come creeping out of their huts, away from their ever- 
burning fires. 

The production of coprah varies greatly on the 
different islands. While on some of them there is 
scarcely any to be had, there are others which are 
practically covered with cocoa-nut trees ; this is chiefly 
the case on islands of volcanic origin, on which springs 
and rivers are very scarce. It has been supposed that 
the natives, being dependent on the water of the 
cocoa-nut as a beverage, had planted these trees very 
extensively. This is not quite exact, although it is a 
fact that in these islands the natives hardly ever taste 
any other water than that of the cocoa-nut. 



AMiniVM 197 

In sun and shower, the natives work in the phm- 
tations in long rows, the women together with their 
husbands or with other women at some lighter task. 
The men dislike to be separated from their wives, 
for they are very jealous ; neither do they approve 
of the women discussing their husbands among them- 
selves. For light work the women are more useful, 
as they are more accustomed to regular work from 
their youth up than the men, who are used to spending 
their days in easy laziness. 

Towards sunset, the " Bubu " announces the end 
of work, and the natives stroll towards their quarters, 
simple huts of straw, where each man has his couch, 
with a trunk underneath containing his belongings. 
Meals are prepared by a cook, and the men go to fetch 
their rations, rice, yam, or taro. Sometimes there is 
meat, but not often, except in places where wild pig is 
plentiful. In that case, it is simplest for the master 
to send his boys shooting every Sunday, when it 
depends on themselves if they are to have meat 
during the coming week or not. After the meal, the 
natives sit round the fires chatting, gossiping and 
telling fairy-tales. They know stories of all sorts of 
monsters and demons, and excite each other by tales 
of these horrors to such a degree, that bad dreams or 
even a general panic are often the consequence, and 
the whole crowd turns out in the middle of the night, 
declaring that the place is haunted, and that they have 
seen a devil, who looked thus and so. If someone 
suddenly dies in a hut, it is worst of all. Death is 
invariably caused, so they all believe, by poison or 



198 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

witchcraft, and the natives will build another house of 
their own accord rather than go on living in one they 
consider haunted. If a planter loses many hands by 
death, his plantation gets a bad reputation, and the 
natives refuse to work there ; so that it is to the 
planter's advantage to take some care of their 
labourers, and they do so to a certain extent, whereas 
in former years the mortality on French planta- 
tions was very high, as much as 44 per cent, per 
annum. 

Sometimes, especially on moonlight nights, the 
boys wish to dance, and they all go to the beach and 
spend the whole night singing and dancing. Another 
amusement is hunting for crayfish on the reef at low 
tide. 

My boys' term of service was over in a month. 
They were very much afraid of being taken to another 
island, which was natural in a way, as a savage is 
really not as safe in a strange place as a white man. 
Besides, they had had their desire and had seen 
Noumea, so that there was no longer any inducement 
for them to stay with me. They accordingly became 
most disagreeable, slow, sulky and sleepier than ever, 
and as I could not be punishing them all day long, 
life with them became somewhat trying. It is dis- 
appointing to find so little gratitude, but the natives 
are quite unaccustomed to be treated better by a white 
man than his interest demands, so that they suspect 
a trap in every act of kindness. Under the circum- 
stances, I thought it best to dismiss my boys, and, 
finding little of interest in Epi, the natives having 



AMBRYM 199 

nearly all died out, I boarded the Australian steamer 
for Ambrym. 

Although Ambrym is only twenty-five miles from 
Epi, I was five days on the way, so zigzag a route did 
the steamer pursue. But if one is not in a hurry, life 
on board is quite entertaining. The first day we 
anchored near the volcano of Lopevi, a lofty peak 
that rises from a base six kilometres in diameter to a 
height of 1440 metres, giving its sides an average 
slope of 48°, which offers rather an unusual sight. 
The whole of Lopevi is rarely to be seen, as its 
top is usually covered with a thick cloud of fog or 
volcanic steam. It is still active, and but few whites 
have ascended it. At periods of great activity, the 
natives climb to the top and bring sacrifices to appease 
it, by throwing cocoa-nuts and yam into the crater. 

We touched at Port Sandwich, and then steamed 
along the coast of Malekula, calling every few miles 
at some plantation to discharge goods, horses, cattle 
and fowls, and take on maize or coprah. At last we 
arrived at Dip Point, Ambrym, where I was kindly 
received by Dr. B. of the Presbyterian Mission, who 
is in charge of the fine large hospital there. Its situa- 
tion is not more picturesque than others, but the place 
has been made so attractive that one can hardly 
imagine a more lovely and restful sight. The build- 
ings stand on level ground that slopes softly down to 
the beach. The bush has been cleared, with the 
exception of a number of gigantic fig trees, that over- 
shadow a green lawn. Under their airy roof there is 
always a light breeze, blowing from the hills down to 



200 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

the sea. In the blue distance rises Aoba, and the 
long-drawn coast of Malekula disappears in the mist. 
A quieter, sweeter place for convalescents does not 
exist, and even the native patients, who are not, as 
a rule, great lovers of scenery, like to lie under the 
trees with their bandaged limbs and heads, staring 
dreamily into the green and blue and sunny world. 

Dr. B. is an excellent surgeon, famous all over 
the group, not only among the white population, but 
among the natives as well, who are beginning to 
appreciate his work. Formerly they used to demand 
payment for letting him operate on them, but now 
many come of their own accord, so that the hospital 
never lacks patients. The good that Dr. B. does 
these people can hardly be overrated, and the Presby- 
terian Mission deserves great credit for having 
established the hospital ; but it is a regrettable fact 
that all these efforts are not strong enough to counter- 
act other effects of civilization, such as alcoholism, 
which is the curse of the native race, especially on 
Ambrym. 

Although the sale of alcohol to natives is strictly 
prohibited by the laws of the Condominium, the 
French pay no attention to these rules, and sell it in 
quantities without being called to account. The sale 
of liquor is the simplest means of acquiring wealth, 
as the profit on one bottle may amount to five 
shillings. The natives of Ambrym spend all their 
money on drink, and as they are quite rich and buy 
wholesale, the results, in money for the trader and in 
death for the native, are considerable. For they 



AMBRYM 201 

drink in a senseless way, simply pouring down one 
bottle after the other, until they are quite overcome. 
Some never wake up again ; others have dangerous 
attacks of indigestion from the poison they have 
consumed ; still more catch colds or pneumonia from 
lying drunk on the ground all night. Quarrels and 
fights arc frequent, and it is not a rare sight to see a 
whole village, men, women and children, rolling on 
the sand completely intoxicated. The degeneration 
which results from this is all the sadder, as originally 
the race on Ambrym was particularly healthy, vigor- 
ous and energetic. These conditions are well known 
to both governments, and might be suppressed on the 
French side as easily as they are on the English ; but 
the French government seems to take more interest 
in the welfare of an ex-convict than in that of the 
native race, although the latter is one of the most 
important sources of wealth on the islands, setting 
aside all considerations of humanity. If the liquor 
traffic is not speedily suppressed, the population is 
doomed. 

Ambrym offers quite a different aspect from the 
coral islands, as its sloping sides are seamed by 
streams of lava, the course of which may be traced 
by the breaks in the forest, as the glowing mass 
flows slowly down to the coast, congealing in the 
water to peculiarly shaped jagged rocks. Every few 
hundred yards we find one of these black walls on 
the shore in which the sea foams, and the sand that 
covers the beaches is black too. In dull weather all 
this looks extremely gloomy, monotonous and im- 



202 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

posing — the war of two elements, fire and water ; and 
this dark, stern landscape is far more impressive than 
the gay, smiling coral beach with the quiet blue sea. 

My stay on Ambrym was very pleasant. By the 
help of Dr. B., I was enabled to find four bright boys, 
willing and cheerful, with whom I used to start out 
from Dip Point in the mornings, visit the neighbour- 
ing villages, and return loaded with objects of all 
sorts at noon ; the afternoons were devoted to work 
in the house. The weather was exceptionally favour- 
able, and the walks through the dewy forest, on the 
soft paths of black volcanic dust, in the cool, dark 
ravines, with occasional short climbs and delightful 
glimpses of the coast, were almost too enjoyable to 
be regarded as a serious duty. 

The culture of Ambrym is similar to that of 
Malekula, as is plainly shown by the natives' dress. 
The men wear the bark belt and the nambas, which 
they buy on Malekula ; the dress of the women is the 
same as that worn in central Malekula, and consists 
of an apron of pandanus or some similar fibre, wound 
several times round the waist ; this forms a thick roll, 
not unlike ballet skirts, but more graceful. It is a 
pretty dress, though somewhat scanty, and the 
"skirts" flap up and down coquettishly when the 
wearer walks. The other parts of the body are 
covered with a thick layer of soot, filth, oil, fat and 
smoke, for the Ambrymese are not at all fond of 
bathing. 

The villages are open, rarely surrounded by a 
hedge. The houses are rather close together, 



AMBRYM 203 

grouped irregularly in a clearing ; a little apart, on 
a square by themselves, are the houses of the secret 
societies, surrounded by images and large drums. 
The dwelling-houses are rather poor-looking huts, 
with low walls and roofs and an exceedingly small 
entrance which is only to be passed through on one's 
hands and knees. Decency demands that the women 
should always enter the houses backward, and this 
occasions funny sights, as they look out of their huts 
like so many dogs from their kennels. 

As a rule, the first event on my entering a village 
was that the women and children ran away shrieking 
and howling ; those not quite so near me stared 
suspiciously, then retired slowly or began to giggle. 
Then a few men would appear, quite accidentally, 
of course, and some curious boys followed. My 
servants gave information as to my person and 
purpose, and huge laughter was the result : they 
always thought me perfectly mad. However, they 
admired me from all sides, and asked all sorts of 
questions of my boys : what was my name, where 
did I live, was I kind, was I rich, what did I have to 
eat, did I smoke or drink, how many shirts and 
trousers did I have, how many guns and what kinds, 
etc. The end of it was, that they either took me for 
a dangerous sorcerer, and withdrew in fear, or for a 
fool to be got the better of. In the latter case, they 
would run eagerly to their houses and bring out some 
old broken article to offer for sale. A few sarcastic 
remarks proved useful ; but it was always some time 
before they realized what I wanted. The fine old 



204 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

possessions from which they did not like to part 
would suddenly turn out to be the property of some- 
one else, which was a polite way of saying, "we have 
that, but you won't get it." 

In this way collecting was a very tiresome and 
often disappointing process of bargaining, encourag- 
ing, begging and flattering ; often, just as I was 
going away, some man or other would call me aside 
to say that he had decided to sell after all, and was 
ready to accept any price. 

Horror and silent consternation were aroused 
when I asked for skulls. " Lots over there," they 
said, pointing to an enclosed thicket, their burying- 
ground. Only very rarely a man would bring me a 
skull, at the end of a long stick. Once I started on 
the quest myself, armed with a shovel and spade ; as 
my servants were too much afraid of the dead to help, 
I had to dig for myself. A man loafed near by, 
attracted by the excited chatter of some old women. 
He told me sadly that I was digging up his papa, 
although it was a woman ; then he began to help 
with some show of interest, assuring me that his 
papa had two legs, whereas at first I could find but 
one. A stranger had given me permission to dig, so 
as to play a trick on the son ; but the latter was quite 
reconciled when I paid him well. For a week all the 
village talked of nothing but the white madman who 
dug up bones ; I became a celebrity, and people 
made excursions from a distance to come and stare 
at me. 

Although the Suque is highly developed here. 



AMBRYM 205 

there are other secret societies whose importance, 
however, is decreasing, as they are being more or 
less absorbed by the Suque. As each of these clubs 
has its own house, we sometimes find quite a number 
of such huts in one village, where they take the place 
of gamals. Each Suque high caste has his own 
house, which the low castes may not enter. The 
caste of the proprietor may be seen by the material 
of which the hedge is made, the lower castes having 
hedges of wood and logs, the highest, walls of stone 
and coral slabs. Inside the courtyard, each man 
lives alone, served only by his wives, who are allowed 
to cook his food. The separation of the sexes is not 
so severe on Ambrym as on Santo. On the whole, 
it would seem that in the past Ambrym had a 
position apart, and that only lately several forms of 
cult have been imported from Malekula and mingled 
with genuinely local rites. Even to-day, it is not 
rare for a man from Ambrym to settle for a while on 
Malekula, so as to be initiated into some rites which 
he then imports to Ambrym ; and the Ambrymese 
pay poets large fees to teach them poems which are 
to be sung at certain feasts, accompanied by dances. 
Unhappily, I never had occasion to attend one of 
these "sing-songs." 

The originality of Ambrym has been preserved 
in its sculpture only. The material used is tree-fern 
wood, which is used nowhere else but in the Banks 
Islands. The type of human being represented 
differs from that on the other islands, especially as 
regards the more moon-shaped form of the head. 



2o6 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

Representations of the whole body are frequent, so 
are female statues ; these I have only found again in 
Gaua, where they are probably modern inventions. 
Sometimes a fish or a bird is carved on the statue, 
probably as a survival of old totemistic ideas, and 
meant to represent the totem animal of the ancestor 
or of his clan. The meaning of these carvings is 
quite obscure to the natives, and they answer 
questions in a very vague way, so that it is 
probable that totemistic ideas are dying out in the 
New Hebrides. 

Most of the statues are meant to represent an 
ancestor. If a native is in trouble, he blows his 
whistle at nightfall near the statue, and if he hears a 
noise, he thinks the spirit of the ancestor has 
approached and entered the statue, and he proceeds 
to tell the statue his sorrows and ask the spirit for 
help. Occasionally sacrifices are made to the figures, 
as is shown by the pigs' jaws frequently found tied 
to them. 

The Ambrymese conceptions of the spirit world 
are very similar to those of other islanders. The 
native likes to wear on his back or chest or arm the 
tusks of the most valuable pigs he has sacrificed, and 
has them buried with him, so that in the other world 
he may at any time be able to prove how much he 
respected his ancestors. 

The centre of the dancing grounds is generally 
occupied by the big drums, not quite so numerous but 
better made than those of Malekula. By the drums, 
too, the caste of the proprietor may be recognized : 



AMBRYM 207 

the higher his standing, the more heads are carved 
on them. Horizontal drums are sometimes found, 
but they are always small, and only serve to ac- 
company the sound of the larger ones. 

There are usually a few men sitting round the 
drums, playing games. One game is played by two 
men sitting opposite to each other ; one sticks a small 
shell into the ground, and his opponent tries to hit it 
with another. There does not seem to be any win- 
ning or losing, as in our games, but they keep it up 
for hours and even days. Another favourite game 
borders on the marvellous. One man has six shells 
and the other five. Each in turn puts a shell on the 
ground, and when they have all been dealt, each in 
turn picks up one at a time, when the one who had 
six before has five, and the one who had only five has 
six. They stare at each other, wonder, and try it 
again ; behold, the one who had six at the beginning 
has five now and the other six. They try again and 
again, and each time the shell changes hands, and 
nobody can explain how on earth it could have 
jumped from one man to the other. It seems too 
strange to be natural, and while a cold shiver creeps 
up their backs, they play on and on, with ever new 
delight and wonder. At such enviable pastimes these 
people spend their days and kill time, which would 
otherwise hang heavy on their hands. Tops, nicely 
made from nuts, are a popular toy ; and there are 
other games, more sportsmanlike, such as throwing 
reeds to a distance, and throwing wooden shells, at 
which two villages often compete against each other. 



208 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

After I had exhausted the surroundings of Dip 
Point, I marched along the coast to Port Vato, where 
I lived in an abandoned mission house, in the midst 
of a thickly populated district. At present, the 
people are quiet, and go about as they please ; but 
not long ago, the villages lived in a constant state of 
feud among themselves, so that no man dared go 
beyond his district alone, and the men had to watch 
the women while they were at work in the fields, for 
fear of attack. The sense of insecurity was such 
that many people who lived in villages only twenty 
minutes' walk from the coast had never seen the 
ocean. The population as a whole enjoys the state 
of peace, which the missionaries have brought about, 
though there are always mischief-makers who try to 
create new feuds, and there is no doubt that the old 
wars would break out anew, if the natives were left 
to themselves. 

These disturbances were not very destructive in 
the days of the old weapons ; it is only since the 
introduction of firearms that they have become a real 
danger to the race as a whole. They even had their 
advantages, in forcing the men to keep themselves in 
condition, and in providing them with a regular 
occupation, such as preparing their weapons, or 
traininof or gruardino; the villao'e and the women. 
With the end of the feuds, the chief occupation of the 
men disappeared, and but few of them have found any 
serious work to take up their time. Thus civilization, 
even in its role of peace-maker, has replaced one evil 
by another. 



AMBRYM 209 

In this district, I could go about with my servants 
wherever I pleased ; only one Santo boy I had with 
me did not feel safe, and suddenly developed great 
interest in cooking, which allowed him to stay at 
home while the rest of us went on expeditions. His 
cooking was not above reproach ; he would calmly 
clean a dirty cup with his fingers, the kitchen towels 
occasionally served as his head-dress, and one day he 
tried to make curry with some iodoform I had left in 
a bottle on the table. However, I had learned lone 
ago not to be too particular, and not to take too much 
interest in the details of the kitchen. 

An exceptionally bright man had offered me his 
services as guide, and with his help I obtained many 
objects I would never have found alone. He had a 
real understanding of what I wanted, and plenty of 
initiative. He made the women bring their modest 
possessions, and they approached, crawling on their 
hands and knees, for they are not allowed to walk 
before the men. Later on the men appeared with 
better things. It is an odd fact that all over the 
archipelago the owner rarely brings things himself, 
but generally gives them to a friend. This may be 
due to the desire to avoid the ridicule they would 
surely be exposed to if their possessions were to be 
refused. The extreme sensitiveness and pride with 
which the natives feel every refusal and are deeply 
hurt by any rebuke, may surprise those who look on 
them as savages, incapable of any finer sentiment ; 
but whoever learns to know them a little better will 
find that they have great delicacy of feeling, and will 
14 



2IO WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

be struck by the politeness they show a stranger, and 
by the kind and obliging way in which they treat each 
other. It must be admitted that this is often enough 
only a veneer, under which all sorts of hatred, malice, 
and all uncharitableness are hidden, just as among 
civilized people ; still, the manners of the crudest 
savages are far superior to those of most of the whites 
they meet. 

One sign of this sensitiveness is their reluctance 
to express any desire, for fear of a refusal. I saw a 
daily illustration of this, when my boys wanted the 
tin of meat for dinner which was their due. Although 
they might have taken it themselves, a different boy 
came each day to the room where I was writing, and 
waited patiently for some time, then began coughing 
with increasing violence, until I asked what he 
wanted. Then he would shyly stammer out his 
request. Never would they accost me or otherwise 
disturb me while I was writing or reading ; yet at 
other times they could be positively impertinent, 
especially if excited. The islander is very nervous ; 
when he is quiet, he is shy and reticent, but once he 
is aroused, all his bad instincts run riot, and incredible 
savageness and cruelty appear. The secret of suc- 
cessful treatment of the natives seems to be to keep 
them very quiet, and never to let any excitement 
arise, a point in which so many whites fail. 

They are very critical and observant, and let no 
weakness pass without sarcastic comment ; yet their 
jokes are rarely offensive, and in the end the victim 
usually joins in the general laughter. On the whole, 



AMBRYM 211 

the best policy is one of politeness, justice and con- 
sistency ; and after many years, one may possibly 
obtain their confidence, although one always has to 
be careful and circumspect in every little detail. 

In general, the Ambry mese are more agreeable 
than the Santo people. They seem more manly, less 
servile, more faithful and reliable, more capable of 
open enmity, more clever and industrious, and not so 
sleepy. 

Assisted by my excellent guide, I set about 
collecting, which was not always a simple matter. 
I was very anxious to procure a "bull-roarer," and 
made my man ask for one, to the intense surprise 
of the others ; how could I have known of the 
existence of these secret and sacred utensils ? The 
men called me aside, and begged me never to speak 
of this to the women, as these objects are used, like 
many others, to frighten away the women and the 
uninitiated from the assemblies of the secret societies. 
The noise they make is supposed to be the voice 
of a mighty and dangerous demon, who attends 
these assemblies. 

They whispered to me that the instruments were 
in the men's house, and I entered it, amid cries of 
dismay, for I had intruded into their holy of holies, 
and was now standing in the midst of all the secret 
treasures which form the essential part' of their whole 
cult. However, there I was, and very glad of my 
intrusion, for I found myself in a regular museum. 
In the smoky beams of the roof there hung half- 
finished masks, all of the same pattern, to be used 



212 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

at a festival in the near future ; there was a set of 
old masks, some with nothing left but the wooden 
faces, while the grass and feather ornaments were 
gone ; old idols ; a face on a triangular frame, which 
was held particularly sacred ; two perfectly marvellous 
masks with long noses with thorns, carefully covered 
with spider-web cloth. This textile is a speciality 
of Ambrym, and serves especially for the preparation 
and wrapping of masks and amulets. Its manufacture 
is simple : a man walks through the woods with a 
split bamboo, and catches all the innumerable spider- 
webs hanging on the trees. As the spider-web is 
sticky, the threads cling together, and after a while 
a thick fabric is formed, in the shape of a conical 
tube, which is very solid and defies mould and rot. 
At the back of the house, there stood five hollow 
trunks, with bamboos leading into them. Through 
these, the men howl into the trunk, which re- 
verberates and produces a most infernal noise, well 
calculated to frighten others besides women. For 
the same purpose cocoa-nut shells were used, which 
were half filled with water, and into which a man 
gurgled through a bamboo. All this was before 
my greedy eyes, but I could obtain only a very few 
articles. Among them was a bull-roarer, which a 
man sold me for a large sum, trembling violently 
with fear, and beseeching me not to show it to 
anybody. He wrapped it up so carefully, that the 
small object made an immense parcel. Some of 
the masks are now used for fun ; the men put them 
on and run through the forest, and have the right 



AMBUYM 213 

to whip anybody they meet. This, however, is a 
remnant of a very serious matter, as formerly the 
secret societies used these masks to terrorize all the 
country round, especially people who were hostile 
to the society, or who were rich or friendless. 

These societies are still of great importance on 
New Guinea, but here they have evidently de- 
generated. It is not improbable that the Suque 
has developed from one of these organizations. 
Their decay is another symptom of the decline of 
the entire culture of the natives ; and other facts 
seem to point to the probability that this decadence 
may have set in even before the beginning of 
colonization by the whites. 

My visit to the men's house ended, and seeing 
no prospects of acquiring any more curiosities, I 
went to the dancing-ground, where most of the men 
were assembled at a death-feast, it being the hundredth 
day after the funeral of one of their friends. In 
the centre of the square, near the drums, stood the 
chief, violendy gesticulating. The crowd did not seem 
pleased at my coming, and criticized me in under- 
tones. A terrible smell of decomposed meat filled 
the air ; evidendy they had all partaken of a half- 
rotten pig, and the odour did not seem to trouble 
them at all. 

The chief was a tall man, bald-headed, wearing 
the nambas, of larger size than those of the others, 
and with both arms covered with pigs' tusks to show 
his rank. He looked at me angrily, came up to me, 
and sat down, not without having first swept the 



2 14 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

ground with his foot, evidently in order not to 
come into contact with any charm that an enemy 
might have thrown there. One of the men wanted 
me to buy a flute, asking just double what I was 
willing to give ; seeing that I did not intend to pay 
so much, he made me a present of the flute, and 
seemed just as well pleased. Still, the others stared 
at me silently and suspiciously, until I offered some 
tobacco to the chief, which he accepted with a joke, 
whereat everybody laughed and the ice was broken. 
The men forgot their reserve, and talked about me 
in loud tones, looking at me as we might at a 
hopelessly mad person, half pitying, half amused 
at his vagaries. The chief now wished to shake 
hands with me, though he did not trouble to get up 
for the ceremony. We smiled pleasantly at each 
other, and then he took me to his house, which, 
according to his high rank, was surrounded by a 
stone wall. He rummaged about inside for a long 
time, and finally brought out a few paltry objects ; 
I thought best to pay well for them, telling him 
that as he was a "big fellow-master," I was ready 
to pay extra for the honour of having a souvenir 
of him. This flattered him so much that he con- 
sented to have his photograph taken ; and he posed 
quite cleverly, while the others walked uneasily 
around us, looking at the camera as if it were 
likely to explode at any moment ; and as none of 
them dared have his picture taken, I left. 

Rounding a bend of the path on my way home, 
I suddenly came upon a young woman. First she 



AMBRYM 215 

looked at me in deadly fright, then, with a terrified 
cry, she jumped over the fence, and burst into 
hysterical laughter, while a dozen invisible women 
shrieked ; then they all ran away, and as I went on, 
I could hear that the flight had ceased and the 
shrieks changed to hearty laughter. They had taken 
me for a kidnapper, or feared some other harm, as 
was natural enough with their experience of certain 
kinds of white men. 

Walking along, I heard the explosions of the 
volcano like a far-away cannonade. The dull 
shocks gave my walk a peculiar solemnity, but 
the bush prevented any outlook, and only from the 
coast I occasionally saw the volcanic clouds mount- 
ing into the sky. 

From the old mission-house the view on a clear 
day is splendid. On the slope stand a few large 
trees, whose cleft leaves frame the indescribably 
blue sea, which breaks in snowy lines in the lava- 
boulders below. Far off, I can see Malekula, with 
its forest-covered mountains, and summer clouds 
hanging above it. It is a dreamlike summer day, 
so beautiful, bright and mild as to be hardly real. 
One feels a certain regret at being unable to absorb 
all the beauty, at having to stand apart as an 
outsider, a patch on the brightness rather than a 
part of it. 

At night the view is different, but just as en- 
chanting. A fine dust from the volcano floats in the 
air and the pale moonlight plays softly on the smooth 
surface of the bay, filling the atmosphere with silver, 



2i6 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

so that everything shines in the white light, the long, 
flat point, the forest ; even the bread-fruit tree on the 
slope, whose outline cuts sharply into the brightness, 
is not black, but a darker silver. In the greenish 
sky the stars glitter, not sharply as they do else- 
where, but like fine dots, softly, quietly, as if a 
negligent hand had sprinkled them lightly about. 
And down by the water the breakers roll, crickets 
cry, a flying-fox chatters and changes from one tree 
to the other with tired wings, passing in a shapeless 
silhouette in front of the moon. It is the peace of 
paradise, dreamlike, wishless ; one never tires of 
listening to the holy tropical night, for there is secret 
life everywhere. In the quiet air the trees shiver, 
the moonlight trembles in the bushes and stirs im- 
perceptibly in the lawn ; and from the indistinct 
sounds of which the mind is hardly conscious the 
fancy weaves strange stories. We see all those 
creatures that frighten the natives under the roof 
of the forest, giants with crabs' claws, men with fiery 
eyes, women that turn into deadly serpents, vague, 
misty souls of ancestors, that pass through the 
branches and appear to their descendants ; all that 
we dream of in our northern midsummer night wakes 
in tenfold strength here. 

Suddenly, violent shocks shake the house, ex- 
plosions follow, like distant shots, and the thin, misty 
silver is changed to a red glow. The volcano is in 
action, — a dull, reddish-yellow light mounts slowly 
up behind the black trees, thick smoke rises and 
rises, until it stands, a dark monster, nearly touching 



AMBRYM 217 

the zenith, its foot still in the red glare. Slowly 
the fire dies out, the cloud parts, and it is dark 
night again, with the silver of the moon brooding 
everywhere. 

But the charm is broken by this warning from 
the primitive powers that counterbalance each other 
behind the peace of the tropic night. By and by, one 
grows accustomed to the uncanny neighbourhood of 
the volcano, and only the more formidable eruptions 
attract notice. Sometimes, while at work, I hear 
one of the boys exclaim, " Huh, huh ! " to call my 
attention to the fact that a particularly violent out- 
break has taken place ; and, indeed, half the sky is 
a dirty red, the smoke rises behind the trees as if 
from a oriaantic bonfire, and the dull detonations 
resound. The glowing lava flies high in the air, and 
comes down in a great curve. One of these perform- 
ances lasted several hours, presaging a wonderful 
spectacle for my visit to the volcano, which was set 
for the next day. 

Several natives joined my party, evidently thinking 
it safer to go to see the "fire" in my company than 
alone. Yet the Ambrymese in general show remark- 
ably little fear of the volcano, and regard it as a 
powerful but somewhat clumsy and rather harmless 
neighbour, whereas on other islands legend places 
the entrance to hell in the craters. 

Quite a company of us marched through the 
forest, accompanied by the cannonading of the 
volcano ; we felt as if we were going to battle. We 
traversed the plain and mounted the foot-hills ; half- 



2i8 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

way up, we observed an eruption, but we could see 
only the cloud, as the crater itself was hidden by 
hills. Through thick bush, we came to a water- 
course, a narrow gully, formed by lava-streams. The 
rocks in the river-bed had been polished smooth by 
the water, and though the natives walked over them 
with ease, my nailed boots gave me great trouble, 
and I had to cross many slippery spots on my hands 
and knees, which greatly amused my companions. 
We passed many tree-ferns, whose dainty crowns 
seemed to float on the surface of the forest-like stars, 
and often covered the whole bush, so that the slopes 
looked like a charming carpet of the loveliest pattern. 
This tree, the most beautiful of the tropical forest, 
far surpasses the palm in elegance, whose crown too 
often looks yellowish and unkempt. 

For a few hours we followed the river, which 
led nearly to the edge of the plateau. When the 
path branched off, I called a halt for lunch, as we 
were not likely to find any water later on. We 
were now quite near the craters, and while we ate 
our rice, we heard the roaring, so that the boys grew 
nervous, till the joker of the company made them 
laugh, and then the meal absorbed their attention. 
Still, they occasionally sent furtive glances skyward, 
to see if any lava was coming down upon us. 

Having filled all our vessels with water, we 
marched on, and after a short ascent, found ourselves 
on the great plain, 650 metres above sea-level, about 
12 kilometres in diameter, and shaped like a 
huge dinner-plate, a chain of hills forming the rim. 



AMBRYM 219 

It would seem that the whole plain was formerly 
one gigantic crater ; now only two openings are left, 
two craters 500 and 700 metres high, in the north-west 
of the plain. 

The ground consists of black, coarse-grained slag, 
which creaks when walked on, and forms a fine black 
dust. Naturally the vegetation in this poor soil is 
very scanty, — only bushes and reed-grass, irregularly 
scattered in the valleys between little hillocks ranged 
in rows. This arid desert-scene is doubly surprising 
to the eye, owing to the sudden change from the 
forest to the bare plain. 

In this seemingly endless plain, the two craters 
rise in a bold silhouette, grimly black. One of them 
stands in lifeless rigidity, from the top of the other 
curl a few light, white clouds of steam. It is a 
depressingly dismal sight, without any organic life 
whatever on the steep, furrowed slopes. 

We camped on a hillock surrounded by shrubs ; 
on all sides spread the plain, with low hills, rounded 
by rain and storm, radiating from the craters, and 
where these touched, a confused wilderness of hills, 
like a black, agitated sea, had formed. The hilltops 
were bare, on the slopes there clung some yellowish 
moss. The farther away from the craters, the lower 
the hills became, disappearing at the edge of the 
plain in a bluish-green belt of woods. 

The sky was cloudy, a sallow light glimmered 
over the plain, and the craters lay in forbidding gloom 
and lifelessness, like hostile monsters. Hardly had 
I set up my camera, when the western giant began 



2 20 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

his performance. The clouds of steam thickened, 
detonations followed, and at each one a brownish- 
grey cloud rose out of the mountain, whirled slowly 
upwards, and joined the grey clouds in the sky. The 
mountain-top glowed red, and red lumps of lava 
came flying out of the smoke and dropped behind a 
hill. Then all became quiet again, the mountain re- 
lapsed into Hfelessness, the clouds dissolved to a 
thick mist, and only the steam curled upward like 
a white plume. 

I had taken care to observe how far the lava flew, 
so as to know how near it would be safe to approach. 
The path towards the craters was the continuation 
of the one we had followed, and led to the north 
shore of the island, passing between the craters. It 
is remarkable that the natives should dare to use 
this road, and indeed it is not much travelled ; but 
it speaks for the courage of the first man who had 
the courage to cross the plain and pass between the 
craters. The sharp points of the lava caused great 
suffering to the bare-footed natives, and here I had the 
advantage of them for once, thanks to my nailed boots. 

The clouds had disappeared, the sky shone deeply 
blue, everything reminded me of former trips in other 
deserts. The same dry air cooled the heat that radi- 
ated from the ground, the same silence and solemnity 
brooded over the earth, there was the same colouring 
and the same breadth of view. After the painful 
march through the forest, where every step had to be 
measured and watched, it was a joy to step out freely 
and take great breaths of clear, sweet air. 



AMBRYM 22 1 

After a short, steep climb, I reached the ridge, 
sharp as a knife, that joins the two craters, and following 
it, I suddenly found myself on the brink of the crater, 
from which I could overlook the great bowl, 800 metres 
wide. The inside walls fell vertically to the bottom, 
an uncanny, spongy-looking mass of brownish lava, 
torn, and foaming, and smoking in white or yellowish 
clouds. The opposite side rose much higher, and 
the white cloud I had seen from below floated on top. 
There was a smaller crater, the real opening, and 
through a gap in it I had a glimpse inside, but failed to 
see much because of the smoke. The general view 
was most imposing, the steep, naked walls, the wild 
confusion in the crater, the red and yellow precipitates 
here and there, the vicious-looking smoke from the 
slits, the steam that floated over the opening, swayed 
mysteriously by an invisible force, the compactness 
of the whole picture, in the gigantic frame of the 
outer walls. There was no need of the oppressive 
odour, the dull roaring and thundering and hissing, 
to call up a degree of reverent admiration, even fear, 
and it required an effort of will to stay and grov/ used 
to the tremendous sight. The first sensation on seeing 
the crater is certainly terror, then curiosity awakens, and 
one looks and wonders ; yet the sight never becomes 
familiar, and never loses its threatening aspect. Still, 
the inner crater may be a disappointment. From a 
distance, we see the great manifestations, the volcano 
in action, when its giant forces are in play and it looks 
grand and monumental. From near by, we see it in 
repose, and the crater looks quite insignificant. I nstead 



22 2 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

of the fire we expected to see, we find lava blocks and 
ashes, and instead of the clash of elemental forces, 
we see a dark mass, that glows dully. We can hardly 
believe that here is the origin of the explosions that 
shake the island, and are inclined to consider the 
demon of the volcano rather as a mischievous clown 
than a thundering, furious giant. 

I went to the slope of the eastern crater to find a 
spot from which I might be able to photograph an 
eruption, and returned to camp just as the sun sank 
down in red fire, and the evening mists formed a white 
belt around the two black mountains. The tops of the 
craters shone red against a cool evening sky. 

Suddenly an immense cloud shot up, white and 
sky-high. One side of it shone orange in the last 
sunbeams, the other was dull and grey, and the top 
mingled with the evening clouds. It was a wildly 
beautiful sight, gone too soon. A hawk circled afar 
in the green sky, night crept across the plain, and 
soon the moon poured her silver over the tranquil 
scene. I hoped in vain to see an eruption equal to 
that of the last nights. Everything was quiet, the 
volcano seemed extinct, the fog thickened, covering 
the mountains and the moon. It became disagree- 
ably cool, and there was a heavy dew. The natives 
shivered in their blankets, and I was most uncomfort- 
able under a light canvas. We were all up long 
before daylight, when the volcano sent out a large 
cloud. The sun and the fog had a long struggle, 
when suddenly the clouds tore apart, and the welcome 
sunbeams came to warm us. 



AMBRYM 223 

I went to the spot chosen the day before and 
dug my camera into the lava and waited. My 
impatience was quieted by the splendid view I en- 
joyed, embracing nearly all the islands of the group : 
Epi, Malekula, Aoba, Pentecoste, and higher than 
all, the cone of Lopevi. All these floated in a soft, 
blue haze, and even the two craters shone in a violet 
hue. 

We waited for several hours, freezing In spite of 
the bright sun, between the damp, mossy walls of 
the gully where we sat, and the volcano remained 
quiet, merely hissing and roaring and emitting steam, 
but a real eruption did not occur then, nor for several 
weeks later. We returned to camp, packed up our 
things, and hurried down the slippery gullies and 
lava banks, diving back into the thick, heavy atmo- 
sphere of the sea-level ; and at nightfall I washed off 
the heat and dust of the day in the warm waves of 
the ocean. 



CHAPTER XII 

PENTECOSTE 

The term of service of my Ambrym boys being 
over, I tried to replace them in Paama, but failed ; 
but Mr. G. kindly took me to Epi, where I engaged 
four new boys. However, they proved as sulky as 
they were dirty, and I was disgusted with them, 
and quite glad they had refused to sign for more 
than a month. As they were all troubled with many 
sores, they were of very little service to me, and 
I gladly sent them home by steamer when their 
month was up. 

I returned to Dip Point, and a few days later Dr. B. 
escorted me to Olal, where I took up my quarters 
with Mr. D., a young Australian who was trying to 
make a living by the coprah trade. In Olal, at the 
northern point of Ambrym, the alcohol trade is 
particularly flourishing, and numerous settlers along 
the coast earn large sums by selling liquor. Every- 
body knows this, and numbers of intoxicated natives 
are always to be seen, so that it is somewhat surpris- 
ing that the authorities pretend not to have sufficient 
proof to punish these traders. If ever one of them 
is fined, the amount is so minute that the sale of half 
a dozen bottles makes up for it, so that they go on as 
before. I myself witnessed two cases of death in 



PENTECOSTE 225 

consequence of drinking, alone and at one sitting, 
a bottle of pure absinthe. 

The house of Mr. D. was typical of the dwellings 
built by the colonists. In a circumference of about 
50 metres, the bush had been cleared, on a level 
spot somewhat off the shore and slightly elevated. 
Here stood a simple grass hut, 3 metres wide and 
6 long ; the floor was covered with gravel, and the 
interior divided into a store-room and a living-room. 
On the roof lay a few sheets of corrugated iron, the 
rain from which was collected in a tank to provide 
water. A few paces off was another hut, where the 
coprah was smoked and the boys slept, and on the 
beach was a shed for storing the coprah. 

The actual work a coprah trader has to do is very 
small, amounting to little besides waiting for the 
natives who bring the coprah or the fresh nuts, to 
weigh them and sell his goods. Occasionally he may 
visit a distant village by boat to buy coprah there ; 
but there is plenty of unoccupied time, and it is not 
surprising that many of the settlers take to drink from 
pure boredom. Not so Mr. D., who tried to educate 
the neighbouring natives, but with small success. 

I did not see much of interest here, or learn any- 
thing new about the natives, but I was able to obtain 
some interesting objects, and my collection of skulls 
was nicely started, until some one told the natives 
not to bring me any more skulls, as on the day of 
resurrection the former owners would not be able 
to find their heads. The same person created all 
sorts of difficulties when I attempted some excava- 
15 



2 26 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

tions, and at last insinuated that I was a German 
spy. It is sad to see that the very people who, by 
virtue of their education and position, ought to help 
one most, work against one, while very often poor 
and plain people make sacrifices to help one along. 

A young Ambrymese who had worked for me 
for some days, wanted to enlist in my service when I 
left, although he grew tearful at the thought of 
Malekula, where I intended to go next, and where 
he was convinced he would be killed. Lino-ban was 
a light-haired native, very nice-looking, and a 
favourite with the ladies ; this fact had brought him 
into considerable trouble, and he was obliged to leave 
his home. He stayed with me for three months, 
and was not killed, but suffered much from home- 
sickness. He finally settled at the south end of 
Pentecoste, whence he could see his beloved 
Ambrym, count the cocoa-nut trees on the shore and 
see the heavy clouds over the volcano. 

From Dip Point Mr. S. took me over to Aunua 
on Malekula, the station of the Rev. F. Paton, a son 
of the celebrated J. G. Paton, the founder of the 
Presbyterian missions in the New Hebrides. He 
lived there as a widower, devoting all his strength, 
time and thought to the spiritual and physical 
welfare of the natives, 

Malekula has the reputation of being one of the 
most dangerous islands in the group. The natives 
in the north, the Big Nambas, are certainly not very 
gentle, and the others, too, are high-spirited and will 
not submit to ill-treatment from the settlers. Malekula 




GROUP OF DRUMS ANU STATUES ON MALEKULA. 



PENTECOSTE 227 

is the second largest island of the group, and its 
interior is quite unexplored. I could not penetrate 
inland, as I was unable to find boys and guides for a 
voyage they all thought extremely dangerous. Mr. 
Paton, who had traversed the island at various points, 
consoled me by telling me that the culture inland was 
much the same as along the coast. So I gave up 
my plan, though with some regret. 

Mr. Paton took me to the south end of Malekula, 
and left me on one of the flat coral islands, which are 
all connected under the surface by an extensive reef. 
The landscape is charming, the sea above the reef 
shining in all possible shades, and small flat islands 
enlivening the view in all directions. In these islands 
only Christians live, the few remaining heathen 
having retired to the mainland. 

Here on the south coast the strange fashion 
obtains of deforming the head. This habit is very 
rare in the Pacific, and restricted to two small dis- 
tricts. It is now purely a matter of fashion or 
vanity, — the longer the head, the handsomer the 
individual is thought to be, — but probably there was 
originally some religious or hygienic notion at the 
bottom of the peculiar custom. The operation is 
begun about a month after birth, by rubbing the 
child's head with grease and soot, and then putting 
on a small cap of braided pandanus fibre, which is 
very tight and allows the head to develop only in the 
direction of the crown. When the cap becomes too 
tight, it is cut off, and another, a little larger, put on, 
until the parents are satisfied with the shape of the 



2 28 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

child's head. These baby skulls have an extreme 
shape which is very ugly, and the whole process can 
hardly be agreeable to the patient ; but the operation 
does not seem to have any prejudicial effect on the 
intellect, and in later years the shape of the head 
becomes somewhat less marked, although a man from 
the south of Malekula is always unmistakable. 

This region is remarkable, too, for its highly 
developed ancestor-worship. Although the general 
ideas on the subject are the same here as elsewhere 
in the archipelago, there is a special veneration here 
for the head or skull of deceased ancestors. The 
bones are generally used in making arrow-heads and 
lance-points, and the head, which is useless, is thrown 
away in most islands, or buried again ; but in the 
south of Malekula, the heads are kept, and the face 
is reproduced in a plastic material of fibres, clay and 
sticky juice. The work is very cleverly done, and 
the face looks quite natural, with fine, slightly Semitic 
features. The surface is varnished and painted with 
patterns corresponding to the caste of the dead. 
Often the face has eyes made of bits of shell, the real 
hair is stuck on, and the plumes and nose-stick are 
not forgotten, so that the whole becomes an exact 
portrait of the deceased. Whether this head is to 
have a body or not is a question of caste. The 
higher the caste of the dead, the more completely is 
his body modelled. The heads of low castes are 
simply stuck on poles, higher ones have bodies of 
carved wood, often branches to indicate arms ; but 
the bodies of the highest castes are composed of 



PENTECOSTE 229 

bamboo, fibres and straw, and modelled throughout 
in the same way as the head. They are covered 
with varnish, and every detail reproduced, including 
dress, ornaments and caste signs. In their right 
hands these statues carry a "bubu" or shell horn, 
and in their left, a pig's jaw. The shoulders are 
modelled in the shape of faces, and from these, 
occasionally, sticks protrude, bearing the heads of 
dead sons, so that such a statue often has three or 
four heads. These figures stand along the walls of 
the gamal, smiling with expressionless faces on their 
descendants round the fires, and are given sacrifices 
of food. 

Side by side with this ancestor-worship there goes 
a simpler skull-cult, by which a man carries about the 
head of a beloved son or wife, as a dear remembrance 
of the departed. Among a flourishing population it 
would naturally be impossible to obtain such objects, 
but here, where the people are rapidly decreasing in 
number, a statue often enough loses its descendants, 
whereupon others have no objection to sell it. 

The taste for plastic art shows in other things as 
well. I found several grotesque dancing-masks and 
sticks, made for some special dance. The feeling 
for caricature expressed in these articles is extra- 
ordinary and amusing even, from a European point 
of view. Here, too, the Semitic type appears, and 
the natives seem to delight in the hooked noses, thick 
lips and small chins. I gathered a rich harvest of 
these curios near the little island of Hambi ; un- 
fortunately Mr. Paton came to take me home before 



2 30 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

I had time to pack the objects carefully, and I had 
to leave them in charge of natives until the arrival 
of the steamer ; when I found them again, after six 
months, they had suffered a good deal. 

Towards evening, while rounding the south-east 
corner of Malekula, our motor broke down, and we 
had neither oars nor sail. Fortunately the tide was 
in our favour, and we improvised a sail from a 
blanket, so that we drifted slowly along and reached 
the anchoragre late at nio-ht. 

Mr. Paton then took me to Malo, where a 
Frenchman, Mr. I., was expecting me. On the east 
coast there was but little to be done, as the natives 
had nearly all disappeared ; but I was able to pick up 
some skulls near a number of abandoned villages. I 
found very considerable architectural remains, — walls, 
mounds and altars, all of masonry ; buildings of this 
importance are to be found nowhere else except in 
Aore and the Banks Islands, and it seems probable 
that the populations of these three districts are 
related. 

I had an interesting experience here. Mr. I. 
and his neighbour did not enjoy the best of reputa- 
tions as regrarded their treatment of natives. One 
day Mr. I. took me over to N.'s place. N. was 
just returning from a recruiting trip to Malekula. 
We saw him come ashore, staggering and moaning ; 
on being questioned, he told us that he had been 
attacked by the natives, and his crew eaten up. He 
was in a frightful state, completely broken, weeping 
like a child, and cursing the savages, to whom, he 



PENTECOSTE 231 

said, he had never done any wrong. His grief was 
so real that I began to pity the man, and thought 
he had probably been paying the penalty for the 
misdeeds of another recruiter. Mr. I. was just 
as emphatic in cursing the bloodthirstiness of the 
natives, but while we were going home, he told me 
that Mr. N. had kidnapped thirty-four natives at that 
very place a year before, so that the behaviour of 
the others was quite comprehensible. From that 
moment I gave up trying to form an opinion on any 
occurrence of the kind without having carefully ex- 
amined the accounts of both parties. One can 
hardly imagine how facts are distorted here, and what 
innocent airs people can put on who are really 
criminals. I have heard men deplore, in the most 
pathetic language, acts of cruelty to natives, who 
themselves had killed natives in cold blood for the 
sake of a few pounds. It requires long and intimate 
acquaintance with the people to see at all clearly in 
these matters, and for a Resident it is quite impossible 
not to be deceived unless he has been on the spot 
for a year at least. 

While waiting at Dip Point for an opportunity to 
cross to Pentecoste, I saw the volcano in full activity, 
and one day it rained ashes, so that the whole country 
was black as if strewn with soot, and the eruptions 
shook the house till the windows rattled. I made a 
second ascent of the mountain, but had such bad 
weather that I saw nothing at all. We came back, 
black as chimney-sweeps from the volcanic dust we 
had brushed off the bushes. I heard later that the 



232 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

extinct eastern crater had unexpectedly broken out 
again, and that several lava streams were flowing 
towards the coast. 

Pentecoste, a long, narrow island running north 
and south, resembles Maevo in shape. My host 
here was a missionary who seemed to connect 
Christianity with trousers and other details of civiliza- 
tion. It was sad to see how many quaint customs, 
harmless enough in themselves, were needlessly 
destroyed. The wearing of clothes constitutes a 
positive danger to health, as in this rainy climate the 
natives are almost constantly soaked, do not trouble 
to change their wet clothes, sleep all night in the 
same things and invariably catch cold. Another 
source of infection is their habit of exchanging 
clothes, thus spreading all sorts of diseases. That 
morals are not improved by the wearing of clothes is 
a fact ; for they are rather better in the heathen 
communities than in the so-called Christian ones. It 
is to be hoped that the time is not far off when 
people will realize how very little these externals 
have to do with Christianity and morality ; but there 
is reason to fear that it will then be too late to save 
the race. 

We undertook an excursion into the interior, to 
a district whose inhabitants had only recently been 
pacified by Mr. F., my host ; the tribes we visited 
were very primitive, especially on the east coast, 
where there is little contact with whites. The people 
were still cannibals, and I had no difficulty in obtain- 
ing some remnants of a cannibal meal. 



PENTECOSTE 233 

We frequently tried to obtain information about 
the organization of the family among these natives, 
but, being dependent on biche la mar, we made small 
progress. My observations were supplemented later 
by the Rev. Mr. Drummond, for which I am very 
much indebted to him ; some of these observations 
may be of interest. 

The population is divided into two clans — the 
Bule and the Tabi. The former is supposed to have 
originated from the tridacna shell, the latter from the 
taro. Every individual knows exactly to which clan 
he belongs, although there are no external signs. 
There is a strict rule forbidding marriage within the 
clan, and an offence against this law was formerly 
punished by death ; to this day, even in Christian 
districts, marriage within the clan is extremely rare. 
No one can change his clan. Children do not belong 
to the clan of the father, but to that of the mother, 
and property cannot be alienated from the clan. 
The father has no rights over his children, and the 
head of the family is not the father, but the eldest 
brother of the mother, who educates the boys and 
helps them along in the Suque. Land belongs to 
the clan, which is like a large family, and indeed 
seems a stronger organization than the family itself; 
but the clans live together in the villages, and as such 
they form a whole with regard to the outside world. 
Quarrels between two clans are not so rare as those 
inside a clan, and the vendetta does not act inside 
the clan, whereas a murder outside the clan must be 
avenged. Uncles and aunts within the clan are 



2 34 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

called father and mother, and the cousins are called 
sister and brother. 

However, this exogamic system could not prevent 
inbreeding, as there was always the possibility that 
uncles and nieces might marry, so that a "horizontal" 
system was superimposed across this " vertical " one, 
forbidding all marriages between different genera- 
tions. Thus, all marriages between near relations 
being impossible, the chances to marry at all are 
considerably diminished, so that nowadays, with the 
decreased population, a man very often cannot find a 
wife, even though surrounded by any number of girls. 
I do not mean to imply by this that the whole clan- 
system was organized simply to prevent inbreeding. 

As I have said before, young men, as a rule, 
either cannot marry, being too poor to buy a wife, or, 
at best, can only afford to pay for an old widow, a 
low-priced article. The young, pretty girls are 
generally bought by old men, who often buy them 
when children, paying half the price down, and 
waiting till the girl is of marriageable age. As 
soon as she is old enough, she has to work for her 
future husband, and is under the care of one of his 
wives. Later on, the husband pays the rest of the 
money, builds a house for the girl, and the marriage 
takes place without any ceremony beyond a dinner 
to the nearest relatives of the couple. In most 
islands the girl cannot object to a match otherwise 
than by running away from a disagreeable husband. 
Generally, when she has run away several times, and 
repeated beatings have not changed her mind, her 



PENTECOSTE 235 

parents pay back the money and the husband gives 
up his wife. What is valued highest in a woman is 
her capacity for work ; but the young men have a 
marked taste for beauty, and there are girls that are 
courted by all the young fellows of the village, and 
who, although married to an old man, accept the 
addresses of a young one. The husband does not 
seem to mind much, provided the woman continues 
to work well for him. 

There is such a thing as love even here, and it 
has been known to grow so powerful as to lead, if 
unrequited, to suicide or to rapid pining away and to 
death. 

On the whole, the women are treated fairly well 
by their husbands, but for an occasional beating, 
which is often provoked by foolish behaviour ; and 
they are taken care of, as they represent a great 
value. There are old ruffians, however, who take 
a perverse pleasure in torturing their wives, and 
these unhappy women are quite helpless, as they 
are entirely in the power of their husbands. Other- 
wise, the fate of the women is not as bad as many 
people think, and the severest rules have never yet 
prevented Eve from finding and taking her pleasure. 

During babyhood the children stay with their 
mothers ; but from the age of four on the boys spend 
most of their time in the gamal, while the girls remain 
under their mother's care. Clothes are not worn by 
the boys till they have joined the Suque, which, in 
some cases, takes place long after puberty. The 
girls seem to begin to wear something whenever the 



2 36 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

mother thinks fit, generally between the ages of four 
and seven. From that moment every connection 
between brother and sister ceases ; they may not 
speak to each other, not meet on the road, in some 
regions not even see each other, and to mention the 
sister's name before the brother is, if not an actual 
insult, certainly very tactless. Similar rules regulate 
the relations between parents- and children-in-law. 

The parerits are very lenient to their children, 
and pass over every impertinence ; they get small 
thanks for their kindness, and the boys, especially, 
often treat their mothers very badly. The natives' 
fondness for children makes them very good nurses, 
and it is a source of the greatest pride to a native 
boy to take care of a white child. 

The father's death is of little importance to the 
children, and not much to their mother, who, as a 
rule, goes over to her husband's oldest brother. If 
the mother dies, the children are adopted by a 
maternal aunt or some other woman of the clan. 
One reason why all this is of no great importance 
is the far-reachinor communism which is a feature of 

o 

native life, every one sleeping and eating wherever 
he pleases. 

Mr. F. took me up north, where I wished to study 
the population. I must not omit to mention that the 
population of Pentecoste is divided into two distinct 
types : the people in the south are like those of 
Ambrym, those in the north resemble the inhabitants 
of Aoba. This is evident not only in the dress, but 
also quite distinctly in the exterior of the people. 



PENTECOSTE 237 

Yet in spite of the close relations with Ambrym, 
the art of sculpture, so highly developed in the other 
island, is entirely lacking in the south of Pentecoste. 

In the north we find a dress similar to that of 
Aoba : the men do not wear the nambas, while the 
women have a small mat around the waist. The art 
of braiding is brought to great perfection here, and 
the mats from Pentecoste are surpassed only by those 
from Maevo. The material is pandanus, whose leaves 
are split into narrow strips, bleached and then braided. 
Some of the mats are dyed with the root of a plant, 
by boiling in a dyeing vat of bark. Besides the 
small mats, chiefly used for the women's dress, there 
are larger ones which serve as money and represent 
a great amount. They are as much as i metre 
wide and 4 long, and are always dyed. The manu- 
facture of these mats is very laborious, and only 
high-caste men with many wives can afford to have 
them made. The patterns for dyeing are cut out of 
banana-sheath, which is then tied tightly on the mat, 
and the whole rolled round a thick stick. The dyeing 
takes almost an entire day. These mats are used, 
for example, to buy the valuable tusked pigs. 

The only form of wood-carving in this region are 
clubs, and those made here are the most elegant of 
the whole group, and so much in demand in all the 
islands that they are quite largely exported. At 
present they are mostly used as ceremonial clubs at 
dances. All those of modern make are inferior to 
the old ones in regard to hardness, elegance of shape, 
polish and strength. Here, in Pentecoste, I found 



238 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

the first basket-plates I had ever seen. They are 
frequent farther north, in the Banks Islands, but do 
not exist in the south. These plates had no centre, 
and had to be lined with leaves to make them 
serviceable, being mere rings. They are used to 
carry cooked food about. In the Banks Islands the 
natives have learned to braid the centre too. 

Up in these northern mountains I spent a most 
unpleasant week in wet, cold weather, in a wretched 
house ; but I had the satisfaction of finding two boys 
to take the place of Lingban, who had, by this time, 
become semi-idiotic with home-sickness. 

I returned to the coast and waited for an oppor- 
tunity to cross to Aoba, but the weather was so bad 
that even Mr. G., an old sea-dog, would not risk the 
voyage ; so we tried to get to Ambrym instead, where 
I could meet the steamer for Aoba. We waited for 
a calm day, and started out in the tiny whale-boat. 
Soon we were caught by one after another of the 
ill-famed Pentecoste squalls, and though my skipper 
was known as one of the best sailors in the islands, 
one squall struck us so suddenly that the boat heeled 
over, and only a very quick turn of the wheel saved 
us from capsizing. The escape was such a narrow 
one that even Mr. G. turned pale, and decided to go 
back, especially as the boys sat on deck, quite useless, 
green with fear and incapable of helping us in any 
way. 

It took us a long time to beat back, and we were 
all glad to feel solid ground under our feet once more. 
After a few days we started again, but luck was 



PENTECOSTE 239 

against me on this occasion, and inside of twelve 
hours I missed the steamer no less than three times, 
which, in the New Hebrides, implies a delay of four 
weeks. 

So, in a heavy whale-boat, I rowed along the 
coast toward Olal with some natives. A dull rain 
drenched us, followed by glaring sunshine that 
stewed us in heavy dampness. Like the ruins of a 
giant wall, black lava blocks lay here and there 
alonor the coast. The surf foamed white in the 
crevasses, and the forest rose, sallow and greenish- 
yellow, above the high bank. Here and there naked 
natives squatted on the rocks, motionless, or looking 
lazily for crabs ; among the huge boulders they looked 
tiny, and their colouring scarcely distinguished them 
from their surroundings ; so that they seemed rather 
like animals, or the shyest of cave-dwellers. Floating 
slowly on the grey sea, in the sad broken light, I 
thought I had never seen a more inhospitable coast. 

Owing to the heavy swell, we had difficulty in 
passing through the narrow channel inside the reef. 
The great rollers pounded against the coral banks, 
and poured back in a thousand white streamlets, like 
a wonderful cascade, to be swallowed by the next 
wave. 

I found my friend, Mr. D., in a sad state with 
fever, cold and loneliness ; wrapped up in woollen 
caps, blankets and heavy clothes, he looked more 
like an Arctic explorer than a dweller near the 
Equator. He spoke of leaving the islands, and, 
indeed, did so some months later. 



240 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

On my way to Aoba I had to spend a few days 
off Pentecoste, in such rainy weather that I went 
ashore but once in all that time. The day was fine, 
and I shall never forget the beauty of that woodland 
scene. A lovely creek winds through reeds, reflect- 
ing the bright sand and the bushes on its banks. 
Dark iron-woods rise in stiff, broken lines, and their 
greyish needles quiver like a light plume against the 
blue sky, where white clouds float serenely. Inland 
the forest swells in a green wall, and farther off it lies 
in rounded cupolas and domes of soft green, fading 
into a lieht around the distant hills. Under over- 
hanging branches I lie, sheltered from the sun; at 
my feet the ripples caress the bank ; delicate lianas 
hang from the branches and trail lazily in the water. 
Swallows dart across the stream, and sometimes 
the low call of a wood-dove sounds from far away. 
A cricket shrieks, and stops suddenly, as if shocked 
at the discordant sound of its own voice. Far off in 
the hills I can hear the rushing of the wind, like a 
deep chord that unites in a sacred symphony with the 
golden sun and the glittering water to voice the 
infinite joy of living that penetrates all creation 
to-day. 

Down-stream I can see the heavy coast banks, 
with a narrow strip of brilliant blue sea shining above 
them, and now and then a glint of snowy foam. 
Two pandanuses frame the view, their long leaves 
waving softly in the breeze that comes floating down 
the valley. Half asleep, I know the delights of the 
lotus-eaters' blessed isle. 



CHAPTER XIII 

AOBA 

Next day I landed in Aoba, at "Albert's." He was 

an American negro, who, after having been a stoker 

and sailor, had settled here as a coprah trader. His 

language was of the strangest, a mixture of biche la 

mar, negro French and English, and was very hard 

to understand. With the help of two native women 

he kept his house in good order, and he was 

decidedly one of the most decent colonists of the 

group, and tried to behave like a gentleman, which is 

more than can be said of some whites. He seemed 

to confirm the theory that the African is superior to 

the Melanesian. Albert sheltered me to the best of 

his ability, although I had to sleep in the open, under 

a straw roof, and his bill of fare included items which 

neither my teeth nor my stomach could manage, such 

as an octopus. There were several other negroes 

in Aoba ; one was Marmaduke, an enormous 

Senegalese, who had grown somewhat simple, and 

lived like the natives, joining the Suque and dancing 

at their festivals. He occasionally came to dinner at 

Albert's ; this was always amusing, as Albert thought 

himself far superior to Marmaduke, and corrected 

his mistakes with still more comical impossibilities. 

Both were most polite and perfectly sober. The 
i6 



242 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

talk, as a rule, turned on stories of ghosts, in which 
both of them firmly believed, and by which both were 
much troubled. Marmaduke was strangled every 
few nights by old women, while a goblin had sat on 
Albert's chest every night until he had cleared the 
bush round his house and emptied his Winchester 
three times into the darkness. This had driven the 
ghosts away, — a pretty case of auto-suggestion. I 
was interested in hearing these stories, though I 
should hardly have thought a sensible man like 
Albert could have believed such things. 

The people of Aoba are quite different from those 
of the other islands, — light-coloured, often straight- 
haired, with Mongolian features ; they are quite 
good-looking, intelligent, and their habits show many 
Polynesian traits. The Suque is not all-important 
here : it scarcely has the character of a secret society, 
and the separation of the sexes is not insisted on. 
Men and women live together, and the fires do not 
appear to be separated. As a result, there is real 
family life, owing in part to the fact that meals are 
eaten in common. The gamal is replaced by a 
cooking-house, which is open to the women ; gener- 
ally it is nothing but a great gabled roof, reaching to 
the ground on one side and open on the others. 
Here the families live during the day, and the young 
men and guests sleep at night, while the married 
couples sleep in their huts, which are grouped around 
the cooking-house. 

The position of the women, so much better 
here than elsewhere, is not without effect on their 



AOBA 243 

behaviour. They are independent and self-possessed, 
and do not run away from a stranger nor hide in 
dark corners when a white man wants to speak to 
them. Because of their intelligence they are liked 
on plantations as house-servants, and so many of 
them have gone away for this purpose that Aoba has 
been considerably depopulated in consequence ; few 
of these women ever return, and those who do are 
usually sick. Some Aoba women have made very 
good wives for white men. 

The people of Aoba are remarkable for their 
cleanliness, the dwellers on the coast spending half 
the day in the water, while those from the mountains 
never n^iss their weekly bath, after which they 
generally carry a few cocoa-nuts full of salt water up 
to their homes. The women are very pretty, slim 
and strong ; their faces often have quite a refined 
outline, a pointed chin, a small mouth and full but 
well-cut lips ; their eyes are beautiful, with a soft 
and sensual expression ; and the rhythm of their 
movements, their light and supple walk, give them 
a charm hardly ever to be found in Europe. The 
men, too, are good to look at. Considering the 
intelligence and thriftiness of the race, it is doubly 
regrettable that alcoholism, recruiting and consump- 
tion have had such evil effects of recent years. 

I roamed about in the neighbourhood of Nabutriki 
and attended several festivals ; they are much the same 
as elsewhere, except that the pigs are not killed by 
braining, but by trampling on their stomachs, which ap- 
parently causes rupture of the heart and speedy death. 



244 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

As I mentioned elsewhere, a man's rise in caste is 
marked on every occasion by the receipt of new fire, 
rubbed on a special stick ornamented with flowers. 
Fire is lighted here, as in all Melanesia, by "plough- 
ing," a small stick being rubbed lengthwise in a 
larger one. If the wood is not damp, it will burn in 
less than two minutes : it is not necessary, as is often 
stated, to use two different kinds of wood. To-day 
matches are used nearly everywhere, and the natives 
hardly ever " plough " their fire, except for ceremonial 
purposes ; but they are still very clever about keeping 
the fire burning, and often take along a smouldering 
losf on their walks. 

Wood-carving and sculpture are wanting, except 
in the shape of drums, which are placed in a 
horizontal position, and often reach considerable 
dimensions. 

Not far from Albert's lived a man of the highest 
caste, my friend Agelan. He was planning to kill 
one hundred tusked pigs in the near future, which 
would raise him to the highest caste far and wide, 
but would also impoverish him for the rest of his life. 
He lived quietly and comfortably, like a country 
squire, surrounded by his relatives and descendants. 
He seemed fond of good living, and his wife was an 
excellent housekeeper. In the midst of a somewhat 
colourless Christian population, wearing trousers and 
slovenly dresses, using enamel pots and petrol-lamps, 
Aeelan and his household were a g-enuine relic of the 
good old times, and no one could have pretended 
that his home was less pleasant than those around 











.•*.'•" 4 



- J-i 







f 






.It- 


1 

> 





AOBA 245 

him. These things are largely a matter of taste ; 
and those who prefer grotesque attire to beautiful 
nakedness will be happy to know that their wishes 
will soon be fulfilled. I liked the old heathen, and 
spent a good deal of time with him. A sketch of his 
home life may not come amiss, just because these 
primitive ways are dying out so fast. 

As I near the house, some dogs rush out at me, 
and a woman's voice calls them back ; Agelan roars 
a welcome — he always shouts, and likes to put on 
masterful airs ; for in years gone by he was a very 
unpleasant customer, until the man-of-war — but that 
is all ancient history, and now his bark is much worse 
than his bite. I have the honour of being in his good 
books, thanks to certain medical services I was able 
to render him ; he has an ugly cough, for which 
we have tried in turn : iodine, Peruvian balsam, 
eucalyptus oil, quinine, and other medicines ; nothing 
helps, but he seems to enjoy swallowing the drugs. 

The floor of the house is hard clay ; there are two 
fireplaces at one end, and at the other some large 
drums serve as seats. Everywhere in the roofing 
hang bows, arrows, bones, plummets, ropes, and clubs. 
Agelan has been toasting himself at a little fire of his 
own ; now he rises, coughing, and shakes hands. He 
is a very tall, strongly-made man of about sixty, with 
a high forehead, long, hooked nose, wide mouth, thin 
lips and white beard. His dress is the old-fashioned 
loin-mat, and around his wrists he wears heavy 
strands of shell money. His wife, too, is very tall 
and strong, with quiet, dignified movements ; she may 



246 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

be forty years old. Everything about her is calm and 
determined ; while not handsome, she has such a 
kind expression as to look very pleasant. She wears 
a small loin-cloth, and her light coffee-coloured skin 
is scrupulously clean. Around her neck and over 
her left shoulder she wears a string of shells, and 
around her ankles, small red beads. Near her squats 
her little daughter, a pretty child of six ; an adopted 
daughter plays near the fire with a small, thick-bellied 
orphan boy, who is always crying. The girls, too, 
wear little ornaments ; and their dainty movements, 
curly heads, round faces and great dark eyes are 
very attractive. 

The midday meal is steaming under a heap of 
leaves and dust, and a man is busily scraping cocoa- 
nuts for the delicious cocoa-nut milk. Agelan sends 
one of the girls for an unripe nut, which is opened 
in three deft cuts, and I am offered the refreshing 
drink as a welcome. Now Agelan, who has been 
brooding for days over these matters, questions me 
as to my origin and plans, and he roars himself nearly 
hoarse, for we cannot understand each other. The 
other man, a fugitive from the east coast, is asked 
to interpret, but he is sulky and awkward ; not that 
he is a bad sort, but he is sick, and spends most of 
his time asleep in a shed he has built for himself in 
a corner of the house, and only appears at meals. 

The youngest son comes in, the last left to Agelan, 
for the older ones have all joined the mission, — it is 
the fashion. This boy is a quiet, cheerful lad of 
twelve, already a high caste, for his father has killed 



AOBA 247 

many pigs for him. He has shot a miserable pigeon, 
and his mother and the girls laugh at the poor booty, 
much to his chagrin, 

Agelan now takes me to "view" a particularly 
fine tusked pig, tied under a roof, on a clean couch of 
straw ; the boy shows it bits of cocoa-nut to make it 
open its mouth, so that I can see and admire its tusks. 
Agelan would like nothing better than to show off all 
his pigs, and if I were a native I would pass them in 
review as we Europeans visit picture-galleries ; but I 
refuse as politely as I can. We return to the cook- 
house, where the cocoa-nut rasping is finished ; the 
man washes his hands in the water of a nut, splitting 
it open and squeezing the water in a little spray on 
to his hands. Mrs. Agelan knows a simpler way ; 
she fills her mouth with water and squirts it on her 
hands. The cocoa-nut pratino^s are kneaded with a 
little water, while the girls sweep the earth off the 
cooking-place and uncover the stones ; an appetizing 
smell spreads, and the master of the house watches 
the preparations with a sharp eye and a silent 
tongue. One feels that the least carelessness will 
provoke an outburst, and, indeed, a solemn silence 
has fallen on the company, only the wife smiles 
quietly. 

" Lap-lap banana good ! " Agelan roars in my ear, 
and I nod assent. Now the hot stones are removed 
with bamboo tongs, and the great flat object, wrapped 
in banana leaves, is taken out. Mrs. Agelan throws 
back the leaves and uncovers the beautifully cooked 
golden lap-lap. Her lord looks at it critically, and 



248 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

returns to his corner silent, but evidently satisfied. 
His wife cannot quite hide a smile of pride. 

The stranger now squeezes the cocoa-nut gratings 
over a wooden bowl, and a creamy juice runs through 
his fingers. The bowl is brought to Agelan, who 
looks at it as if reading an oracle ; then he selects a 
hot stone from his own fire, and sends the bowl back 
to be embedded in the gratings. He approaches with 
his stone in a wooden fork, and squats down near the 
bowl lost in thought, as if anxious not to miss the 
right moment ; then he drops the stone into the milk, 
which hisses, bubbles and steams. A fine smell of 
burnt fat is noticeable ; and while the liquid thickens, 
Agelan behaves as if he could perform miracles and 
was in league with supernatural powers. After a 
while his wife hands him the bowl, and he holds it 
over the pudding, undecided how and where to pour 
the milk ; one would think the fate and welfare of 
creation depended on his action. Being a man of 
energy, he makes up his mind, and pours one stream 
right across the pudding, then empties his bowl and 
retires with a sigh to his seat. About ten more 
bowlfuls are needed, but these are poured by Mrs. 
Agelan without further ceremony. The solemn hush 
is over. With a long bush-knife. Mama cuts the 
pudding into strips and squares and distributes it, and 
the meal proceeds amid general satisfaction. I am 
given a large slab ; fortunately it tastes very good 
and is easily digestible, for politeness ordains that one 
must eat enormous quantities. At one stage of the 
proceedings the girls are sent to take some food to 



AOBA 249 

the neighbours as a present. When everyone has 
finished, Agelan lies down for a siesta, while his wife 
Hghts a pipe and squats in silent happiness near the 
fire. The girls play with the dirty little boy, and the 
son plucks his tiny pigeon and a flying-fox ; singeing 
the creature's fur off occasions such an evil smell that 
I prefer to take my leave. Mrs. Agelan smiles her 
farewell, the girls giggle, and when I have gone some 
distance I hear Agelan, awakened from his siesta, 
roar a sleepy good-bye after me. 



CHAPTER XIV 

LOLOWAY— MALO— THE BANKS ISLANDS 

Having traversed the western part of the island, I 
sailed to Loloway, near the eastern point, one of the 
loveliest spots in the archipelago. Lofty cliffs flank 
two sides of a round bay ; at the entrance a barrier- 
reef breaks the swell, which glides in a soft undulation 
over the quiet water, splashing up on the sandy beach. 
All around is the forest, hanging in shadowy bowers 
over the water, and hardly a breeze is astir. The 
white whale-boat of the Anglican missionary floats 
motionless on the green mirror ; sometimes a fish 
leaps up, or a pigeon calls from the woods. In the 
curve of the bay the shore rises in two terraces ; on 
the lower lies the Anglican missionary's house, just 
opposite the entrance. In the evening the sun sets 
between the cliffs, and pours a stream of the purest 
gold through the narrow gap. It is a pity this fairy 
spot is so rarely inhabited ; Melanesian missionaries 
are not often at home, being constantly on the road, 
or at work in the native villages. Mr. G., too, was 
on the point of departure, and agreed to take me with 
him on his trip. 

In his alarmingly leaky boat we sailed westward, 
two boys baling all the time. We ran into a small 

anchorage, pulled the boat ashore, and marched off 

350 




TATTOUIXG ON A015A. 



LOLOWAY— MALO— THE BANKS ISLANDS 251 

inland. The people I found here were similar to 
those in the west, except that they had developed 
certain arts to a greater degree of perfection, particu- 
larly mat-braiding and tattooing. The braiding is 
done by a method very similiar to that in vogue on 
Pentecoste. The tattooing is mostly done by women 
and on women ; but the men, especially the high 
castes, often have a beautifully designed sicca leaf 
running from the chest towards one shoulder, which 
probably has some religious significance. The 
women often have their whole body, arms and legs, 
covered with tattooing, as if with fine lace. The 
operation is done bit by bit, some one part being 
treated every few days. The colour used is the 
rosin of a nut-tree precipitated on a cool stone and 
mixed with the juice of a plant ; the pattern is drawn 
on the skin with a stick, and then traced with the 
tattooingr-needle. This consists of three orange 
thorns, tied at right angles to a stick. The needles 
are guided along the design with the left hand, while 
the right keeps striking the handle softly with a light 
stick, to drive the needles into the skin. This is 
kept up until a distinct outline is produced ; the 
operation is not very painful. The skin is then 
washed and rubbed with a certain juice, which evi- 
dently acts as a disinfectant ; at least I never saw 
any inflammation consequent on tattooing. During 
the next few days some of the dye works out and 
falls off with the dry crust that forms on the wound, 
leaving the tattooing a little paler. The patterns are 
rather complicated, and at the present day there are 



252 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

no recognizable representations of real objects ; yet 
there seems no doubt that at one time all the designs 
represented some real thing. They are carefully 
adapted to the body, and accentuate its structure. 
The women who do the tattooing are well paid, so 
that only the wealthy can afford to have their wives 
and daughters tattooed all over ; and naturally a 
tattooed woman brings a higher price in the matri- 
monial market than a "plain" one. 

In this same place I had occasion to observe an 
interesting zoological phenomenon, the appearance 
of the palolo-worm, which occurs almost all over 
the Pacific once a year, at a certain date after the 
October full moon. The natives know the date 
exactly, which proves the accuracy of their chron- 
ology. The palolo is a favourite delicacy, and they 
never fail to fish for it. We went down to the shore 
on the first night ; there were not many worms as 
yet, but the next evening the water was full of the 
greenish and brownish threads, wriggling about 
helplessly. Each village had its traditional fishing- 
ground, and we could see the different fires all 
along the coast. The worms were gathered by hand 
and thrown into baskets, and after midnight we went 
home with a rich harvest. The palolo is mixed with 
pudding, and said to taste like fish ; I am not in a 
position to pronounce an opinion. 

I returned to Nabutriki, and thence to Male, 
where Mr. W. informed me that the Burns-Philp 
steamer had already passed, and asked me to stay with 
him and his kind family until I should find an oppor- 



LOLOWAY— MALO— THE BANKS ISLANDS 253 

tunity to cross. I accepted all the more gladly, as 
this part of Malo was still quite unknown to me. 
The population I found here is probably identical 
with that which formerly inhabited the south shore 
of Santo. This was interesting to me because of 
certain scientific details, though on the whole the 
life was much the same as elsewhere in Melanesia, 
with the Suque, etc. I collected a number of charms 
and amulets, which the people sold willingly, as they 
no longer believed in their power. Formerly, they 
were supposed to be useful for poisoning, as love- 
charms, or for help in collecting many tusked pigs. 

I also visited the neio"hbourin8f islands, and heard 
the gruesome story of how the last village on Aord 
disappeared. The Aor6 people were for ever at war 
with those of South Santo, across the Segond Channel. 
The men of Aore were about sixty strong, and one 
day they attacked a Santo village. Everyone fled 
except one man, who was helpless from disease. He 
was killed and eaten up, and in consequence of this 
meal thirty out of the sixty men from Aore died. 
The others dispersed among the villages of Malo. 
In Aore, I had the rare sensation of witnessing an 
earthquake below the surface. I was exploring a 
deep cave in the coral banks when I heard the well- 
known rumbling, felt the shock, and heard some great 
stalactites fall from the ceiling. This accumulation 
of effects seemed then to me a little theatrical and 
exaggerated. 

The next steamer took me to the Banks Islands, 
and I went ashore at Port Patterson on Venua Lava. 



2 54 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

Here were the headquarters of a rubber planting 
company ; but the rubber trees had not grown well, 
and the company had started cocoa-nuts. I had met 
Mr. Ch., the director, before, and he took me in. 
The company owned a motor-launch, which cruised 
all through the Banks Islands, visiting the different 
plantations ; this gave me a good opportunity to 
see nearly all the islands. The sea is much more 
dangerous here than in the New Hebrides, being 
open everywhere ; and the strong currents cause 
heavy tide rips at the points of the jagged coasts. 

An excursion to Gaua was a failure, owing to bad 
weather. After having shivered in a wet hut for four 
days, we returned to Port Patterson only just in 
time ; for in the evening the barometer fell, a bad 
sign at that season, and the wind set in afresh. The 
launch was anchored in a sheltered corner of the bay, 
near an old yacht and a schooner belonging to Mr. W., 
a planter on a neighbouring islet. All the signs 
pointed to a coming cyclone, and suddenly it shot 
from the mountains, furrowed the sea, and ruled 
supreme for two days. From the director's house I 
watched the whirling squalls gliding over the water, 
lifting great lumps of spray, that shot like snow over 
the surface and disappeared in the misty distance. 
Rain rattled in showers on the roof; everywhere was 
a hissing, rushing, thundering ; the surf broke in 
violent, irregular shocks like the trampling of an 
excited horse ; the wind roared in the forest till the 
strongest trees trembled and the palms bent over 
with inverted crowns. In a moment the creeks 




1 



LOLOWAY— MALO— THE BANKS ISLANDS 255 

swelled to torrents, and in every gully there ran rivers, 
which collected to a deep lake in the plain. In the 
house the rain penetrated everywhere, leaked through 
the roof, dripped on the beds, and made puddles on 
the floor. 

Meanwhile the captain and engineer of the launch 
had passed an unpleasant time ; they had stayed 
aboard till the rolling of the boat drove them to the 
larger yacht ; but seeing the schooner break her two 
chains and drift on to the reef, they became frightened 
and went ashore in the dinghey, and home along the 
beach. Later they arrived at the station and reported 
"all well," and were amazed when I told them that 
the launch had stranded. I had just been looking 
from the veranda through the glass at the boats, when 
a huge wave picked up the launch and threw her on 
the beach. There she had rolled about a little, and 
then dug herself into the sand, while the tide fell and 
the wind changed. Next day the cyclone had passed, 
but the swell was still very heavy. Equipped with 
everything necessary to float the launch, we marched 
along the beach, which was beaten hard by the waves. 
We had to cross a swollen river on an improvised 
raft ; to our satisfaction we found the boat quite 
unhurt, not even the cargo being damaged ; only a 
few copper plates were torn. Next day Mr. W. 
arrived, lamenting his loss ; for his beautiful schooner 
was pierced in the middle by a sharp rock, and she 
hung, shaken by the waves that broke over her decks 
and gurgled in the hold. The rigging was torn, the 
cabin washed away, and the shore strewn with her 



256 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

doors, planks, beams and trade goods. It was a 
pitiful sight to see the handsome ship bending over 
like a fallen warrior, while the company's old yacht 
had weathered the cyclone quite safely. 

During the work of refloating the boat, Mr. Ch. 
was taken very ill with fever, and I nursed him for 
some days ; he was somewhat better by Christmas 
Eve, and we had the satisfaction of brinorino- the 
saved launch back to the station. He was visibly 
relieved, and his good humour was agreeably felt by 
his boys as well as by his employes, to whom he sent 
a goodly quantity of liquor to celebrate the occasion. 
We sat down to a festive dinner and tried to realize 
that this was Christmas ; but it was so different from 
Christmas at home, that it was rather hard. At our 
feet lay the wide bay, turquoise blue, edged with 
white surf; in the distance rose the wonderful sil- 
houette of Mota Lava Island ; white clouds travelled 
across the sky, and a gentle breeze rustled in the 
palms of the forest. The peaceful picture showed no 
trace of the fury with which the elements had fought 
so few days ago. 

Tired with his exertions, Mr. Ch. withdrew early, 
and I soon followed ; but we were both aroused by 
the barking of the dogs, followed by the pad of bare 
feet on the veranda, whispering and coughing, and 
then by a song from rough and untrained throats. 
The singers were natives of a Christian village some 
miles away, who came to sing Christmas hymns in a 
strange, rough language, discordant and yet impres- 
sive. When they had finished the director went out 



LOLOWAY— MALO— THE BANKS ISLANDS 257 

to them ; he was a man whom one would not have 
beHeved capable of any feeling, but he had tears in 
his eyes ; words failed him, and he thanked the singers 
by gestures. We all went down to the store, where 
they sang to the employes, and received presents ; 
after which they spent the rest of the night with the 
hands, singing, eating and chatting. On Christmas 
Day the natives roasted a fat pig, the employes 
spent the day over their bottles, and I was nurse 
once more, my patient being delirious and suffering 
very much. 

Before New Year's Day the launch was sent to 
all the different stations to fetch the employes, an 
interesting crowd of more or less ruined individuals. 
There was a former gendarme from New Caledonia, 
a cavalry captain, an officer who had been in the 
Boer war, an ex-priest, a clerk, a banker and a cow- 
boy, all very pleasant people as long as they were 
sober ; but the arrival of each was celebrated with 
several bottles, which the director handed out without 
any demur, although the amount was prodicrious. 
Quarrels ensued ; but by New Year's Eve peace was 
restored, and we all decorated the director's house 
with wreaths for the banquet of the evenino-, The 
feast began well, but towards midnight a o-eneral 
fight was going on, which came to an end by the com- 
batants falling asleep one by one. Thus the new 
year was begun miserably, and the next few days were 
just as bad. The natives looked on at the fio-hts 
with round-eyed astonishment ; and the director was 
in despair, for a second cyclone was threatenincr, 
17 



258 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

and there was hardly anyone in a fit condition to 
help him secure the launch. 

All one morning it rained, and at noon the cyclone 
broke, coming from the south-west, as it had done 
the first time, but with threefold violence. We sat 
on the veranda, ready to jump off at any moment, in 
case the house should be blown away. The view 
was wiped out by the mist ; dull crashes resounded in 
the forest, branches cracked and flew whirling through 
the air, all isolated trees were broken off short, and 
the lianas tangled and torn. The blasts grew ever 
more violent and frequent, and if the house had not 
been protected by the mountain, it could never have 
resisted them. As it was, it shook and creaked, and 
a little iron shed went rolling along the ground like a 
die. Down in the plain the storm tore the leaves off 
the palms, and uprooted trees and blew down houses. 
The cyclone reached its climax at sunset, then the 
barometer rose steadily, and suddenly both wind and 
rain ceased. The stillness lasted for about half an 
hour and then the storm set in again, this time from 
the north, striking the house with all its strength ; 
fortunately it was not so violent as at first. With 
the rising barometer the storm decreased and changed 
its direction to the east. All next day it rained and 
blew ; but on the third morning the storm died out in 
a faint breeze from the south-east, and when we came 
to reckon up our damages, we found that it might 
have been worse. Meanwhile the employes had had 
time to recover from their orgy. A brilliant day 
dried the damp house, and soon everything resumed 



LOLOWAY— MALO— THE BANKS ISLANDS 259 

a normal aspect except the forest, which looked 
brown and ragged, like autumn woods at home. 

I made use of the first calm day to visit the 
lonely little islet of Meralava. As it has no anchor- 
age, no one can land there except in quiet weather, 
and so it had come about that the company's em- 
ployd had had no communication with the outside 
world for four months. The island is an extinct 
volcano, a regular cone, with the crater as a deep 
cavity in the top. There is hardly a level square 
metre on the whole island, and the shores rise steeply 
out of the sea ; only a few huge lava blocks form 
a base, on which the swell breaks and foams. When 
we reached the island, this swell was so heavy as to 
render landing almost impossible. All we could do 
was to take the employ^ aboard and return home. 
I was very sorry to have to give up my visit to 
Meralava, as the natives, though all christianized, 
have preserved more of their old ways than those of 
other islands, owing to their infrequent intercourse 
with civilization. For the same reason, the popula- 
tion is quite large ; but every time a ship has landed 
an epidemic goes through the island, the germs of 
which appear to be brought by the vessels, and 
the natives evidently have very small powers of 
resistance. We may here observe on a small 
scale what has taken place all over the archi- 
pelago in the degeneration and decimation of the 
aborigines. 

The people of Meralava live on taro, which they 
grow in terraced fields, the water being obtained 



2 6o WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

from holes in the rocks, and on cocoa-nuts, of which 
the island yields a fair supply. 

The following day we started for Ureparapara, 
also a volcanic island, with an enormous crater, one 
side of which has fallen in ; because, as the natives 
say, a great fish knocked against it. The sea has 
penetrated into the interior of the crater, forming a 
lovely bay, so that ships now lie at anchor where 
formerly the lava boiled and roared. 

In consequence of the frequent intercourse with 
whites, the population is scanty. There is hardly 
a level patch, except the small strip at the base of the 
slope and the great reef outside. Here, too, we had 
difficulty in landing, but in the evening we found an 
ideal anchorage inside the bay. The water was scarcely 
ruffled, and little wavelets splashed on the shore, 
where mangrove thickets spread their bright foliage. 
Huge trees bent over the water, protecting the straw 
roofs of a little village. In the deep shade some 
natives were squatting round fires, and close by 
some large outrigger-canoes lay on the beach. On 
three sides the steep wooded slopes of the former 
crater's walls rise up to a sharply dented ridge, and 
it all looks like a quiet Alpine lake, so that one 
involuntarily listens for the sound of cow-bells. 
Instead, there is the call of pigeons, and the dull 
thunder of the breakers outside. 

We took a holiday in this charming bay ; and 
though the joys of picnicking were not new to us, 
the roasting of some pigeons gave us a festive 
sensation and a hearty appetite. The night under 



LOLOWAY— MALO— THE BANKS ISLANDS 261 

the bright, starHt sky, on board the softly rocking 
launch, wrapped me in a feeling of safety and coziness 
I had not enjoyed for a long time. 

Along the steepest path imaginable I climbed 
next morning to the mountain's edge. The path 
often led along smooth rocks, where lianas served as 
ropes and roots as a foothold ; and I was greatly 
surprised to find many fields on top, to which the 
women have to climb every day and carry the food 
down afterwards, which implies acrobatic feats of no 
mean order. 

Ureparapara was the northernmost point I had 
reached so far, and the neighbourhood of the art- 
loving Solomon Islands already made itself felt. 
Whereas in the New Hebrides every form of art, 
except mat-braiding, is at once primitive and de- 
cadent, here any number of pretty things are made, 
such as daintily designed ear-sticks, bracelets, neck- 
laces, etc. ; I also found a new type of drum, a 
regular skin-drum, with the skin stretched across one 
end, while the other is stuck into the ground. The 
skin is made of banana leaves. These and other 
points mark the difference between this people and 
that of the New Hebrides. As elsewhere all over 
the Banks group, the people have long faces, high 
foreheads, narrow, often hooked, noses, and a light 
skin. Accordingly, it would seem that they are 
on a higher mental plane than those of the New 
Hebrides, and cannibalism is said never to have 
existed here. 

My collections were not greatly enriched, as a 



2 62 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

British man-of-war had anchored here for a few days 
a short time before ; and anyone who knows the blue- 
jackets' rage for collecting will understand that they 
are quite capable of stripping a small island of its 
treasures. A great deal of scientifically valuable 
material is lost in this way, though fortunately 
these collectors go in for size chiefly, leaving small 
objects behind, so that I was able to procure several 
valuable pieces. 

After our return to Port Patterson the launch 
took me to a plantation from which I ascended the 
volcano of Venua Lava. Its activity shows princi- 
pally in sulphur springs, and there are large sulphur 
deposits, which were worked fifteen years ago by a 
French company. A large amount of capital had 
been collected for the purpose, and for a few weeks 
or months the sulphur was carried down to the 
shore by natives and exported. Then it was found 
that the deposits were not inexhaustible, that the 
employes were not over-conscientious, that the con- 
sumption of alcohol was enormous, and finally the 
whole affair was given up, after large quantities of 
machinery had been brought out, which I saw rusting 
away near the shore. In this way numerous enter- 
prises have been started and abandoned of late years, 
especially in Noumea. It is probably due to this 
mining scheme that the natives here have practically 
disappeared ; I found one man who had once carried 
sulphur from the mine, and he was willing to guide 
me up the volcano. 

There are always clouds hanging round the top 



LOLOWAY— MALO— THE BANKS ISLANDS 263 

of the mountain, and the forest is swampy ; but on 
the old road we advanced quite rapidly, and soon 
found ourselves on the edge of a plateau, from which 
two streams fell down in grand cascades, close together, 
their silver ribbons gleaming brightly in the dark 
woods. One river was milk-white with sulphur pre- 
cipitate, the other had red water, probably owing to 
iron deposits. The water was warm, and grew still 
warmer the farther up we followed the river. Suddenly 
we came upon a bare slope, over certain spots of 
which steam-clouds hung, while penetrating fumes 
irritated one's eyes and nose. We had come to the 
lower margin of the sulphur springs, and the path led 
directly across the sulphur rocks. Mounting higher, 
we heard the hissing of steam more distinctly, and 
soon we were in the midst of numerous hillocks with 
bright yellow tops, and steam hissing and whistling 
as it shot out of cracks, to condense in the air into 
a white cloud. The whole around seemed furrowed 
with channels and crevasses, beneath which one heard 
mysterious noises ; one's step sounded hollow, and at 
our side ran a dark stream, which carried the hot 
sulphur water to the shore. Great boulders lay 
about, some of them so balanced that a slight touch 
sent them rolling into the depths, where they broke 
into atoms. Sometimes we were surrounded by a 
thick cloud, until a breeze carried it away, and we 
had a clear view over the hot, dark desert, up to the 
mountain-top. It was uncanny in the midst of those 
viciously hissing hillocks, and I could not blame my 
boys for turning green with fear and wishing to go 



2 64 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

home. But we went on to a place where water 
boiled in black pools, sometimes quietly, then with 
a sudden high jump ; some of the water was black, 
some yellowish, and everything around was covered 
with sulphur as if with hoar-frost. 

We followed the course of a creek whose water 
was so hot as to scald our feet, and the heat became 
most oppressive. We were glad to reach the crater, 
though it was a gloomy and colourless desert, in 
the midst of which a large grey pool boiled and 
bubbled. In front was a deep crevice in the crater 
wall, and a cloud of steam hid whatever was in it ; 
yet we felt as though something frightful must be 
going on there. Above this gloomy scene stretched 
a sky of serenest blue, and we had a glimpse of the 
coast, with its little islands bathing in the sapphire sea. 

Next day we left for Gaua. Unhappily the 
captain met friends, and celebrated with them to such 
an extent that he was no longer to be relied on, 
which was all the more unpleasant as the weather 
was of the dirtiest, and the barometer presaged 
another cyclone. After two days it cleared up a 
little ; I went ashore at the west point of Gaua, where 
the launch was to pick me up again two days later, 
as I meant to visit the interior while the others went 
to buy coprah. Even now the wind and the swell 
from the north-west were increasing suspiciously, and 
after I had spent a rainy night in a village off the 
shore, I saw the launch race eastward along the coast, 
evidently trying to make a safe anchorage, with the 
storm blowing violent squalls and the sea very high. 



LOLOWAY— MALO— THE BANKS ISLANDS 265 

On my way inland I still found the paths 
obstructed by fallen trees from the last cyclone, 
while nearly all the cocoa-nut palms had lost their 
nuts. And again the storm raged in the forest, and 
the rain fell in torrents. 

I was anxious to buy statues of tree-fern wood ; 
they are frequently to be seen here, standing along a 
terrace or wall near the gamal, and seem not so much 
images of ancestors, as signs of rank and wealth. 
The caste may be recognized by the number of pigs' 
jaws carved on the statues. Often the artist first 
makes a drawing of the statue in red, white and black 
paint on a board ; and these same designs are used 
as patterns for tattooing, as well as on ear-sticks and 
other objects. Female statues are common, which is 
an unusual thing. 

I obtained a good number of skulls, which were 
thrown into the roots of a fig tree, where I was 
allowed to pick them up as I pleased. 

The Suque is supposed to have originated here ; 
and here certainly it has produced its greatest 
monuments, large altar-like walls, dams and ram- 
parts. The gamals, too, are always on a foundation 
of masonry, and on either side there are high 
pedestals on which the pigs are sacrificed. Among 
the stones used for building- we often find o-reat 
boulders hollowed out to the shape of a bowl. No 
one knows anything about these stones or their 
purpose ; possibly they are relics of an earlier popu- 
lation that has entirely disappeared. 

When I returned from my excursion I looked 



266 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

down on a wild foam-flecked sea, over which the 
storm was raging as it did during the previous 
cyclones. I reahzed that I should have to stay 
here for some time, and ate my last provisions some- 
what pensively. I only hoped that the launch had 
found an anchorage, else she must inevitably have 
been wrecked, and I should be left at the mercy of 
the natives for an indefinite time. The hut in which 
I camped did not keep off the rain, and I was wet 
and uncomfortable ; thus I spent the first of a series 
of miserable nights. I was anxious to know the fate 
of the launch, and this in itself was enough to worry 
me ; then I was without reading or writing materials, 
and my days were spent near a smoky fire, watching 
the weather, trying to find a dry spot, sleeping and 
whistling. Sometimes a few natives came to keep 
me company ; and once I got hold of a man who 
spoke a little biche la mar, and was willing to tell 
me about some old-time customs. However, like 
most natives, he soon wearied of thinking, so that 
our conversations did not last lonof. 

The natives kept me supplied with food in 
the most hospitable manner : yam, taro, cabbage, 
delicately prepared, were at my disposal ; but, un- 
accustomed as I was to this purely vegetable diet, 
I soon felt such a craving for meat that I began to 
dream about tinned-meat, surely not a normal state 
of things. To add to my annoyance, rumours got 
afloat to the effect that the launch was wrecked ; and 
if this was true, my situation was bad indeed. 

On the fifth day I decided to try and find the 



LOLOWAY— MALO— THE BANKS ISLANDS 267 

anchorage where I supposed the launch to be. The 
wind had dropped a Httle, but it was still pouring, 
and the walk through the slippery, devastated forest, 
up and down steep hills and gullies, across fallen 
trees, in a thick, oppressive fog, was strenuous 
enough. In the afternoon, hearing that the launch 
was somewhere near, we descended to the coast, 
where we came upon the captain and the crew. They 
had managed to anchor the launch at the outbreak 
of the storm, and had camped in an old hut on the 
beach ; but the huge waves, breaking over the reef, 
had created such a current along the beach that the 
launch had drao-o-ed her anchors, and was now caught 
in the worst of the waves and would surely go down 
shortly. Unfortunately the captain had sent the 
dinghey ashore some time before coming to this bay, 
so that there was no means whatever of reaching the 
launch. The risino- sea had threatened to wash 

O 

away the hut, and the captain, leaving the boat to 
her fate, had gone camping inland. 

I went down to the beach to see for myself how 
things stood, and was forced to admit that the man 
had not exaoorerated. In the midst of the ragrinof surf 
the launch rocked to and fro, and threatening waves 
rose on every side and often seemed to cover her. 
Still she was holding her own, and had evidently 
not struck a rock as yet ; and if her cables held out, 
hope was not lost. I watched her fight for life for 
some time, and she defended herself more gallantly 
than I should ever have expected from so clumsy a 
craft ; but I had little hope. We spent a miserable 



268 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

night in the village, in a heavy atmosphere, amid 
vermin and filth, on an uneven stone floor. The 
rain rattled on the roof, the storm roared in the forest 
like a passing express train, the sea thundered from 
afar, and a river echoed in a gorge near by ; to com- 
plete the gloomy scene, a violent earthquake shook 
the hills. 

In the morninor the launch was still afloat on the 
same spot ; the wind had abated, and the sky no 
longer looked quite so stormy. During the night 
things improved still more, and we ventured to camp 
on the shore. The boys went for the dinghey, and 
although they had hard work, half dragging, half 
carrying it along the shore over the cliffs, they 
succeeded in bringing it to our beach, and then made 
an attempt to row to the launch, but were almost 
carried out beyond the reef. Encouraged by a 
faintly rosy sunset and a few stars, we waited another 
day ; then the current along the coast had nearly 
ceased, only outside the reef huge mountains of water 
rolled silently and incessantly past, and broke 
thundering against the cliffs. The second attempt 
to reach the launch was successful, and, wonderful to 
relate, she had suffered no damage, only she had 
shipped so much water that everything was soaked 
and rusty. The engineer began to repair her engines, 
and by evening she steamed back to her anchorage, 
where we welcomed her as if she had been a human 
being. 

The wind had quite fallen when we steamed out 
next day. It was dull weather, and we were rocked 



I>OLOWAY— MALO— THE BANKS ISLANDS 269 

by an enormous swell ; yet the water was like a 
mirror, and the giant waves rose and disappeared 
without a sound. It all seemed unnatural and un- 
canny, and this may have produced the frightened 
feelino- that held us all that morninor. While we 
were crossing over to Port Patterson a sharp wind 
rose from the north, and the barometer fell, so that 
we feared another edition of the storm. If our 
engines had broken down, which happened often 
enough, we should have been lost, for we were in a 
region where the swell came from two directions, and 
the waves were even higher than in the morning. 
Fortunately the wind increased but slowly ; presently 
we were protected by the coast, and at night we 
arrived at Port Patterson. The men had given us up, 
and welcomed us with something akin to tenderness. 
Here, too, the cyclone had been terrible, the worst 
of the three that had passed in four weeks. 

Soon afterwards the steamer arrived, bringing 
news of many wrecks and accidents. A dozen ships 
had been smashed at their anchorages, four had dis- 
appeared, and three were known to have foundered ; 
in addition, news came of the wreck of a steamer. 
Hardly ever had so many fallen victims to a 
cyclone. 

Painfully and slowly our steamer ploughed her 
way south through the abnormally high swell. None 
of the anchorages on the west coast could be touched, 
and everywhere we saw brown woods, leafless as 
in winter, and damaged plantations ; and all the 
way down to Vila we heard of new casualties. 



CHAPTER XV 

TANNA 

Of the larger inhabited islands of the New Hebrides, 
only Tanna remained to be visited. Instead of stop- 
ping at Vila, I went on to White Sands, Tanna, 
where the Rev. M. was stationed. The larore island 
of Erromanga has but little native population, and 
that is all christianized ; the same is true of the 
smaller islands of Aneityum, Aniwa and Futuna. I 
preferred to study Tanna, as it is characteristic of 
all the southern part of the archipelago. The 
population is quite different from that in the north, 
and one would call it Polynesian, were it not for 
the curly hair which shows Melanesian admixture. 
Light-coloured, tall, strong, with the fleshy body 
that is often a feature of the Polynesian, the people 
have, not infrequently, fine open features, small 
noses and intelligent faces of oval outline. They 
are more energetic, warlike and independent than 
those up north, and their mode of life is different, 
the Suque and everything connected with it being 
entirely absent. Instead, we find hereditary chief- 
tainship, as in all Polynesia, and the chiefs are held 
in the highest veneration by their subjects. This 
state of things was greatly to the advantage of the 
missions, as the chiefs, even if converted, retained 



TANNA 271 

their authority, whereas in the north the high castes, 
on their conversion, lost all influence and position, 
as these only depended on the Suque. The brilliant 
results of the missions in Tanna are due, apart from 
the splendid work of the two Presbyterian mission- 
aries, chiefly to this fact. If the missionaries 
and the authorities would join forces for the 
preservation of the native race, great good might 
be done. Intelligent efforts along this line ought 
to comprise the following features : revival of the 
wish to live and the belief in a future for the race, 
increase in the birth-rate, rational distribution of the 
women, abolition of the present recruiting system, 
compulsory medical treatment, creation of law and 
order, and restoration of old customs as to daily 
life and food. 

The houses on Tanna are poor huts of reed- 
grass, probably because the perpetual wars dis- 
couraged the people from building good dwellings. 
The principal weapons are the spear and club, the 
arrow, as elsewhere in Polynesia, playing a sub- 
ordinate part. A weapon which is probably peculiar 
to Tanna are throwing-stones, carefully made stone 
cylinders, which were hurled in battle. If a man 
had not time to procure one of these granite 
cylinders, a branch of coral or a slab of stone, hewn 
into serviceable shape, would serve his turn ; and 
these instruments are not very different from our 
oldest prehistoric stone implements. 

Quite a Polynesian art is the manufacture of 
tapa : bark cloth. The Tannese do not know how 



272 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

to make large pieces, but are satisfied with narrow 
strips, used as belts by the men, and prettily painted 
in black and red. 

The dress of the men is similar to that of 
Malekula, that of the women consists of an apron 
of grass and straw ; and they often wear a hat of 
banana leaves, while the men affect a very complicated 
coiffure. The hair is divided into strands, each 
of which is wound with a fibre from the head out. 
A man may have several hundred of these ropes on 
his head all tied together behind, giving a somewhat 
womanish appearance. It takes a long time to 
dress the hair thus, and the custom is falling into 
disuse. 

On the whole, the culture of the Tannese is low ; 
there is no braiding or carving, and the ornaments 
worn consist only of a few bracelets and necklaces, 
with an occasional nose-stick ; the only conspicuous 
feature are ear-rings of tortoise-shell, of which as 
many as a dozen may hang in one ear. 

On the other side of Tanna is Lenakel, where 
the Rev. W. was working with admirable devotion 
and success in a hospital. I crossed the island 
several times, and enjoyed the delightful rides 
through the shady forest, on very good bridle-paths 
the natives had made. 

Tanna's most strikingr si^rht is its volcano ; there 
is hardly another in the world so easily accessible ; 
for in half an hour from the shore its foot may be 
reached, and in another half-hour one is at the top. 
It is about 260 m. high, a miniature volcano, with 



TANNA 273 

all its accessories complete, hot springs, lake, desert, 
etc., always active, rarely destructive, looking like 
an overgrown molehill. A wide plain stretches in- 
land, utterly deserted owing to the poisonous vapours 
always carried across it by the south-east trade- 
wind, and in the centre of the plain is a sweet-water 
lake. 

I climbed the volcano for the first time on a rainy 
day. On top, I suddenly found myself at the end 
of the world ; it was the edge of the crater, com- 
pletely filled with steam. As I walked along the 
precipice, such an infernal thundering began just 
under my feet as it seemed, that I thought best 
to retire. My next ascent took place on a clear, 
bright day ; but the wind drove sand and ashes along 
the desert, and dimmed the sunshine to a yellowish 
gloomy light. I traversed the desert to the foot of 
the crater, where the cone rose gradually out of 
brownish sand, in a beautiful curve, to an angle 
of 45°. The lack of all vegetation or other point 
of comparison made it impossible to judge whether 
the mountain was 100 or 1000 m. high. The silence 
was oppressive, and sand columns danced and whirled 
up and down, to and fro, like goblins. A smell of 
sulphur was in the air, the heat was torturing, the 
ground burnt one's feet, and the climb in the loose 
sand was trying. But farther up the sea-breeze 
cooled the air deliciously, and stone blocks afforded 
a foothold. Soon I was on top, and the sight I 
saw seemed one that only the fancy of a morbid, 

melancholy genius could have invented, an ugly 
18 



274 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

fever dream turned real, and no description could 
do it justice. 

In front of me the ground fell down steeply, and 
the torn sides of the crater formed a funnel-shaped 
cavity, a dark, yawning depth. There were jagged 
rocks, fantastic, wild ridges, crevices, fearful depths, 
from which issued steam and smoke. Poisonous 
vapour poured out of the rocks in white and brownish 
clouds that waved to and fro, slowly rising, until a 
breeze caught and carried them away. The sight 
alone would suffice to inspire terror, without the 
oppressive smoke and the uncanny noise far down 
in the depths. Dull and regular, it sounded like 
the piston of an engine or a great drum, heard 
through the noises of a factory. Presently there 
was silence, and then, without any warning, came 
a tearing crack, the thunder as of loo heavy guns, a 
metallic din, and a cloud of smoke rose ; and while 
we forced ourselves to stay and watch, the inferno 
below thundered a roaring echo, the walls shook, 
and a thousand dark specks flew up like a swarm 
of frightened birds. They were lava blocks, and 
they fell back from the height of the crater, rattling 
on the rocks, or were swallowed up by the invisible 
gorge. Then a thick cloud surrounded everything, 
and we realized that our post at the mouth of the 
crater, on an overhanging ridge, was dangerous ; 
indeed, a part of the edge, not far off, broke down 
and was lost in the depths. Another and another 
explosion followed ; but when we turned, we over- 
looked a peaceful landscape, green forests, palms 



TANNA 275 

bending over the bright blue water, and far off the 
islands of Erromanga, Futuna and Aniwa. 

A visit to the volcano at night was a unique ex- 
perience. Across the desert the darkness glided, and 
as we climbed upward, we felt and heard the metallic 
explosions through the flanks of the mountain, and 
the cloud over the crater shone in dull red. Cautiously 
we approached the edge, just near enough to look 
down. The bottom of the crater seemed lifted, the 
walls were almost invisible, and the uncertain glare 
played lightly over some theatrical-looking rocks. 
We could see three orifices ; steam poured out of one, 
in the other the liquid lava boiled and bubbled, of the 
third there was nothing to be seen but a glow ; but 
underneath this some force was at work. Did we 
hear or feel it ? We were not sure ; sometimes it 
sounded like shrill cries of despair, sometimes all was 
still, and the rocks seemed to shake. Then suddenly 
it boiled up, hissing as if a thousand steam-pipes had 
burst, something unspeakable seemed preparing, yet 
nothing happened. Some lava lumps were thrown 
out, to fall back or stick to the rocks, where they 
slowly died out. All at once a sheaf of fire shot up, 
tall and glowing, an explosion of incredible fury 
followed ; the sheaf dispersed and fell down in mar- 
vellous fireworks and thousands of sparks. Slowly, 
in a fiery stream the lava flowed back to the bottom. 
Then another explosion and another, the thumping 
increased, one of the other openings worked, spitting 
viciously in all directions, the noise became unbearable. 
All one's senses were affected, for the din was too 



276 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

violent to touch one's hearing only. Then there was 
silence ; the cloud rose, and beside it we saw the stars 
in the pure sky, and heard the surf beat peacefully, 
consolingly, as if there were no volcano and no 
glowing lava anywhere near. 

While we were standing on the brink as if 
fascinated, the silver moon rose behind us, spread 
a broad road of light on the quiet sea, played round 
us with her cool light, shone on the opposite wall of 
the crater, and caressed the sulphurous cloud. It was 
a magical sight, the contrast of the pure moonlight 
and the dirty glare of the volcano ; an effect indescrib- 
ably grand and peculiar, a gala performance of nature, 
the elements of heaven and hell side by side. 

At last we left. Behind and above us thundered 
the volcano, below us lay the desert, silvery in the 
moonlight, in quiet, simple lines ; far away rolled the 
sea, and in the silence the moon rose higher and 
higher, and our shadows followed us as we traversed 
the plain and gained the friendly shade of the palm 
grove. 



CHAPTER XVI 
THE SANTA CRUZ ISLANDS 

After my return to Port Vila, where I again had 
the honour of being Mr, King's guest, and having 
practically finished my task in the New Hebrides, 
I decided not to leave this part of the world without 
visiting the Santa Cruz Islands, a group of small 
islands north of the New Hebrides and east of the 
Solomon Islands. This archipelago has not had 
much contact with civilization, and is little known. 
I had a good opportunity to go there, as the steam 
yacht Southern Cross of the Anglican mission in 
Melanesia was expected to stop at Vila on her way 
to the Solomons. She touched at the Santa Cruz 
island of Nitendi going and returning, and could 
therefore drop me and take me up again after about 
six weeks. While waiting for her arrival, I investi- 
gated some caves on Leleppa, near Port Havannah, 
which the natives reported to be inhabited by dwarfish 
men ; but the results were insignificant. 

Passage having been granted me by the skipper 
of the Southern Cross, I once more sailed the well- 
known route northward through the New Hebrides 
and Banks Islands; but from Ureparapara onward 
I was in strange waters. The Southern Cross was a 

steamer of about five hundred tons, built especially 

377 



2/8 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

for this service, that is, to convey the missionaries 
and natives from the headquarters on Norfolk Island 
to the different islands. Life on board was far from 
luxurious ; but there was good company and an 
interesting library. I had the pleasure of making 
some interesting acquaintances, and the missionaries 
eave me much valuable information about the natives 
and their customs. When the tone of the conver- 
sation in the evening threatened to b&come too 
serious, our jovial Captain S. speedily improved 
matters by his grotesquely comical sallies. A strenu- 
ous life was that of the missionary who was respon- 
sible for the organization of the voyage ; he had to 
visit the native communities, and went ashore at 
every anchorage, sometimes through an ugly surf or 
dangerous shoals, generally with overcrowded whale- 
boats ; and this went on for three months. I had 
nothing to do, and amused myself by comparing the 
boys from the various islands, who were quite 
different in looks, speech and character. There were 
the short, thick-set, plebeian natives from the New 
Hebrides, the well-built men from the Solomons, 
with their long faces and open, energetic expression, 
the languid, sleepy boys from the Torres Islands 
and the savage Santa Cruzians. 

The trip of the Southern Cross was important as 
an experiment, being the first with an exclusively 
native crew. Hitherto the Melanesians had been 
considered incapable of any work calling for energy, 
initiative and conscientiousness. Captain C. was 
convinced that this was unjust, and started on this 




MAN FROM NITEXDI, SHOOTING. 



THE SANTA CRUZ ISLANDS 279 

voyage without any whites except the officers ; the 
result was most satisfactory. The natives, when 
carefully and patiently trained, work quite as well as 
low-class whites, and have proved themselves capable 
of more than plantation work. 

It was a bright morning when we entered the 
lovely Graciosa Bay on Nitendi. The island had a 
much more tropical aspect than those of the New 
Hebrides, and the vegetation seemed more varied 
and gayer in colour. Natives in canoes approached 
from every side, and all along the beach lay populous 
villages, a sight such as the now deserted shores of 
the New Hebrides must have afforded in days gone 
by. Hardly had we cast anchor when the ship was 
surrounded by innumerable canoes. The men in them 
were all naked, except the teachers the missionaries 
had stationed here ; all the others were genuine 
aborigines, who managed their boats admirably, and 
came hurrying on board, eager to begin bartering. 

The natives here have a bad reputation, and are 
supposed to be particularly dangerous, because they 
never stir from home without their poisoned arrows. 
A missionary had recently been forced to leave the 
island, after having been besieged by the natives for 
several days. But it would seem that they are not 
hostile unless one of their many intricate laws and 
customs is violated, which may happen easily enough 
to anyone unacquainted with their habits. 

I took up my quarters with the only white man in 
the place, a Mr. M., who managed a cocoa-nut planta- 
tion for an Australian company with boys from the 



28o WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

Solomons. My first task was to find servants, as 
none had dared accompany me from the New 
Hebrides to the ill-famed Santa Cruz Islands. 
Through his coprah trade Mr. M. knew the people 
well, and by his help I soon found two boys who had 
some vague notion of biche la mar, real savages, who 
served me well in a childish, playful way. They were 
always jolly, and although they seemed to look upon 
what they did for me rather as a kindness than a duty, 
we got along fairly well. When it became known 
that my service implied good food and little work, 
many others applied, but I only chose one young 
fellow, probably the most perfect specimen of a man 
I have ever seen. He kept himself scrupulously 
clean, and in his quiet, even behaviour there was 
something^ that distino^uished him from all the rest. 
It is difficult to put the beauty of a human body 
into words ; I can only say that he was of sym- 
metrical build, with a deep chest and well-developed 
limbs, but without the great muscles that would have 
given him the coarse aspect of an athlete. His 
greatest charm was in the grace of his movements 
and the natural nobility of his attitudes and his walk ; 
for he moved as lightly and daintily as a deer, and it 
was a constant pleasure, while walking behind him 
during our marches through the forest, to admire his 
elastic gait, the play of his muscles and the elegant 
ease with which he threaded the thicket. I tried to 
take some photographs of him, but without great 
success, owing to technical difficulties ; besides, the 
face had to be hidden as much as possible, as to a 



THE SANTA CRUZ ISLANDS 281 

European eye the natives' faces often seem to have 
a brutal expression. The men of Santa Cruz, too, 
wear disfiguring nose-rings of tortoise-shell hanging 
down over their mouths, so large that when eating 
they have to be lifted up out of the way with the left 
hand. Another ugly habit is the chewing of betel, 
the nut of the areca palm, which is mixed with pepper 
leaves and lime. The lime is carried in a gourd, 
often decorated with drawings and provided with an 
artistically carved stopper. The leaves and this bottle 
are kept in beautifully woven baskets, the prettiest 
products of native art, made of banana fibre inter- 
woven with delicate designs in black. Betel-chewing 
seems to have a slightly intoxicating effect ; my 
boys, at least, were often strangely exhilarated in the 
evening, although they had certainly had no liquor. 
The lime forms a black deposit on the teeth, which 
sometimes o^rows to such a size as to hang- out of the 

o o 

mouth, an appendage of which some natives seem 
rather vain. 

The dress of the men consists of a narrow belt 
of bark and a strip of tapa worn between the legs. 
Around their knees and ankles they wear small, 
shiny shells, and on their chests a large circular plate 
of tridacna-shell, to which is attached a dainty bit 
of carved tortoise-shell representing a combination 
of fish and turtle. This beautiful ornament is very 
effective on the dark skin. In the lobes of the 
ears are hung large tortoise-shell ornaments, and 
on the arms large shell rings or bracelets braided 
with shell and cocoa-nut beads are worn. 



282 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

The men are never seen without bows and 
arrows of large and heavy dimensions. Like all 
the belongings of the Santa Cruzians, the arrows 
show artistic taste, being carefully carved and painted 
so as to display black carving on a white and red 
ground. The points of the arrows are made of 
human bone. 

I bought one of the excellent canoes made by 
these people, and often crossed the lovely, quiet 
bay to visit different villages. The natives take 
great care of their canoes, and make it a point of 
honour to keep them spotlessly white, which they 
do by rubbing them with a seaweed they gather 
at the bottom of the ocean. 

On approaching a village it requires all the skill 
of the native not to be dashed by the swell against 
the reefs. A narrow sandy beach lies behind, and 
then a stone terrace 6 feet high, on which the 
gamal is built. Generally there was great excitement 
when I landed, and the men came rushing from all 
sides to see me. They were not hostile, only too 
eager for trade, and I had to interrupt my visits 
for a week and trade only at the house where I 
was staying, so as to give them time to quiet down. 
This helped matters a little, although, until the day 
I left, I was always the centre of an excited mob 
that pulled at my sleeves and trousers and shrieked 
into my ears. I was always cordially invited to 
enter the gamals ; these were square houses, kept 
very clean, with a fireplace in the centre, and the 
floor covered with mats. As usual, the roof was 



THE SANTA CRUZ ISLANDS 283 

full of implements of all sorts, and over the fire 
there was a stand and shelves, where coprah was 
roasted and food preserved. 

The natives are expert fishermen, and know how 
to make the finest as well as the coarsest nets. 
They frequently spend the mornings fishing, a 
flotilla of canoes gathering at some shallow spot 
in the bay. 

The afternoons are mostly spent in the village 
in a dolce far niente. Each village has its special 
industry : in one the arm-rings of shell are made, 
in another the breastplates, in a third canoes, or 
the fine mats which are woven on a loom of the 
simplest system, very similar to a type of loom found 
in North America. Weaving, it will be remembered, 
is quite unknown in the New Hebrides. 

An object peculiar to these islands is feather 
money. This consists of the fine breast-feathers of 
a small bird, stuck together to form plates, which 
are fastened on a strip of sinnet, so that a long 
ribbon of scarlet feathers is obtained of beautiful 
colour and brilliancy. These strips are rolled and 
preserved in the houses, carefully wrapped up and 
only displayed on great occasions. Considering 
how few available feathers one little bird yields, 
and how many are needed for one roll, it is not 
surprising that this feather money is very valuable, 
and that a single roll will buy a woman. At great 
dances the circular dancina-orrounds alono- the shore 
are decorated with these ribbons. 

For a dance the men exchange the nose-ring 



284 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

of tortoise-shell for a large, finely carved plate of 
mother-of-pearl. In the perforated sides of the nose 
they place thin sticks, which stand high up towards 
the eyes. In the hair they wear sticks and small 
boards covered with the same feathers as those used 
for feather money. They have dancing-sticks of 
a most elaborate description, heavy wooden clubs 
of the shape of a canoe, painted in delicate designs 
and with rattles at the lower end. The designs are 
black and red on a white ground, and are derived 
from shapes of fish and birds. Similar work is 
done on carvings showing the different species of 
fish and birds ; the drawing is exquisite, and shows 
fine feeling for ornamental composition. 

The position of women in Santa Cruz is peculiar, 
although the Suque does not exist, and therefore 
no separation of fires is enforced. Masculine jealousy 
seems to have reached its climax here, for no man 
from another village even dares look at a woman. 
The women's houses are a little inland, away from 
the gamal and separated by high walls from the 
outer world. Most of the houses are square, but 
there are some circular ones, a type very rare in 
these regions. To my regret I was never able 
to examine one of these round houses, so that I 
have no idea how they are built. To enter the 
women's quarters, or to approach nearer than 
lOO metres to any woman, is a deadly offence, 
and such breaches of etiquette are the cause of 
frequent feuds. Only once I was taken by one of 
my boys through the lanes of his village, and this 




MAX FROM NITENDI, WITH PEARL SHELL NOSE ORNAMENT 
rOR DANCING. 



THE SANTA CRUZ ISLANDS 285 

was considered very daring, and the limit of per- 
missible investigation. However, with the help of 
Mr, M., who was practically a "citizen" of one 
of the villages, I succeeded in taking some photo- 
graphs of women ; but only the oldest dowagers and 
some sick girls presented themselves, and among 
them I saw the most repulsive being I ever met, — 
an old shrivelled-up hag. At sight of such a creature 
one cannot wonder that old women were often accused 
of sorcery. 

It is surprising how much inferior physically the 
women of Nitendi are to the men. The men are 
among the best made people I ever saw, while the 
women are the poorest. The dress of the women 
consists of large pieces of tapa, worn around the 
hips and over the head, and a third piece is some- 
times used as a shawl. Tapa is not made at Graciosa 
Bay, but inland ; it is often painted in simple but 
effective geometrical designs. 

The majority of the population lives near the 
sea ; I was credibly informed that there are hardly 
any people inland. The Santa Cruzian is a "salt- 
water man," and there is a string of villages all along 
the coast. The inhabitants of the different villages 
keep very much to themselves, and their territories 
are separated by a strip of forest, and on the shore 
by high stone walls leading far out into the sea. 
On the whole, the two thousand people in the bay 
live very quietly, certainly more so than the same 
number of whites would without any police. It is 
not quite clear in what respect our civilization could 



2 86 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

improve them, as, like most aborigines, they have 
a pronounced sense of propriety, justice and polite- 
ness. There is very little disputing or quarrelling, 
and differences of opinion are usually settled by a 
joke, so that in this respect the savages show a 
behaviour far superior to that of many a roaring 
and swearing white. 

I found neither drums nor statues here, and of 
the local relioion I could learn nothinsf. There is a 
skull-cult, similar to that on Malekula : a man will 
paint the skull of a favourite wife or child yellow, 
shut all the openings with wooden stoppers and carry 
the relic about with him. Towards the end of my 
stay I obtained possession of some of these interest- 
ing skulls. The idea in shutting the holes is 
doubtless to preserve the spirit of the dead inside 
the skull. 

One evening I crossed the bay to attend a dance. 
The starless sky shone feebly, spotted with dark, 
torn clouds. A dull silver light lay on the sea, which 
was scarcely lighter than the steep shores. In the 
silence the strokes of our oars sounded sharp and 
energetic, yet they seemed to come from a distance. 
In the darkness we felt first the outrigger, then the 
canoe, lifted by a heavy swell, which glided away out 
of sight in monotonous rhythm. Then light began to 
play around us, indistinct at first, then two silver 
stripes formed at the bow and ran along the boat. 
They were surrounded by bright, whirling sparks, 
and at the bow of the outrigger the gayest fireworks 
of silver light sprang up, sparkling and dying away 




MAN FROM TUCOPIA WITH TAPA DRESS. 



THE SANTA CRUZ ISLANDS 287 

as if the boat had been a meteor. The oars, too, 
dripped Hght, as though they were brini^ing up fine 
silver dust from below. The naked boy in front of 
me shone like a marble statue on a dark background 
as his beautiful body worked in rhythmic movements, 
the light playing to and fro on his back. And ever 
the sparks danced along the boat in hypnotizing 
confusion, and mighty harmonies seemed to echo 
through the night air. The feeling of time was lost, 
until the opposite shore rose to a black wall, then, 
through the silence, we heard the cold rush of the 
surf beating moodily on the reef. We slackened 
speed, the fairy light died and the dream ended. 
We kept along the shore, looking for the entrance, 
which the boys found by feeling for a well-known 
rock with their oars. A wave lifted us, the boys bent 
to their oars with all their might, we shot across the 
reef and ran into the soft sand of the beach. 

But as the rain fell now in torrents, there was no 
dance that niofht. 

Mr. M. and I attempted a few excursions, but 
bad weather interfered with our plans, and a rainy 
period of three weeks followed. One squall chased 
the other, rattling on the roof, forming swamps every- 
where, and penetrating everything with moisture. I 
was glad when the So2ithern Cross came back for 
me, especially as this was to be the beginning of my 
homeward journey. 

This time we touched at a small island called 
Tucopia, where a primitive Polynesian population 
still exists, probably the only island where this is the 



2 88 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

case. When the steamer approached we saw the 
people running about on the reef in excitement, and 
soon countless canoes surrounded us. The appear- 
ance of these islanders was quite new to me. Instead 
of the dark, curly-haired, short Melanesians, I saw 
tall, light-coloured men with thick manes of long, 
golden hair. They climbed aboard, wonderful giants, 
with soft, dark eyes, kind smiles and childlike 
manners. They went everywhere, touched every- 
thing, and flattered and caressed us. We were all 
eager to go ashore, and at the edge of the reef an 
excited crowd awaited our arrival impatiently and 
pulled our boat violently on the rocks in their 
eagerness. Two tall fellows grabbed me under the 
arms, and, willy-nilly, I was carried across the reef 
and carefully deposited under a shady tree on the 
beach. At first I did not quite trust my companions, 
but I was powerless to resist, and soon I became 
more confident, as my new friends constantly hugged 
and stroked me. Soon a missionary was brought 
ashore in the same way, and then, to our greatest 
surprise, a man approached us who spoke biche la 
mar. He asked if we had no sickness on board, for 
some time ago the same ship had infected the island 
with an epidemic that had caused many deaths. We 
assured him that we had none, and he gave us 
permission to visit the island, telling us, too, that we 
were to have the great honour of being presented to 
one of the four chiefs. This was indeed something 
to be proud of, for in Polynesian islands the chieftain- 
ship, as I have said, is hereditary, and the chiefs are 



THE SANTA CRUZ ISLANDS 289 

paid honours almost divine. We took off our hats 
and were led before the chief, a tall, stout man, who 
sat in a circle of men on a sort of throne, with his 
ceremonial spear leaning against a tree beside him. 
His subjects approached him crouching, but he shook 
hands with us and smiled kindly at us. A noble 
cresture of the hand oave us leave to taste a meal 
prepared to welcome us, which looked most uninvit- 
ing, but turned out to be beautifully cooked sago and 
cocoa-nut cream. We could not finish the generous 
portions, and presently signed that we were satisfied ; 
the chief seemed to regret that we did not do more 
honour to his hospitality, but he gave us permission 
to walk about. While all the other natives ran about 
in great excitement over our visit, the good old 
man sat on his throne all the time, quite solemnly, 
although I am convinced that he was fairly bursting 
with curiosity. We hurried through the village, so as 
to get a general idea of the houses and implements, 
and then to the beach, which was a beautiful sight. 
Whereas on Melanesian islands the dancing-grounds 
only are kept cleared, and surrounded by thick 
shrubbery for fear of invasion, here all the underbrush 
had been rooted out, and the shore was like a park, 
with a splendid view through dark tree-trunks across 
the blue sea, while the golden, godlike forms of the 
natives walked about with proud, regal gait, or stood 
in animated groups. It was a sight so different in 
its peaceful simplicity from what I was accustomed to 
see in Melanesia, it all looked so happy, gay and 
alluring that it hardly needed the invitations of the 
19 



290 WITH NATIVES IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC 

kind people, without weapons or suspicion, and with 
wreaths of sweet-scented flowers around their heads 
and bodies, to incHne us to stay. Truly, the sailors 
of old were not to blame if they deserted in numbers 
on such islands, and preferred the careless native life 
to hard work on board a whaler. Again and again 
I seemed to see the living originals of some classical 
picture, and more and more my soul succumbed to 
the intoxicating charm of the lovely island. 

But we could not stay ; the steamer whistled, and 
we had to leave. A young native was going to 
Norfolk Island, and he took leave of his family and 
the chief in a manly way which was touching to 
witness. He bowed and laid his face on the knees 
of some old white-haired men with finely chiselled, 
noble faces. They seemed to bless him, then they 
raised his head and tenderly pressed their faces 
against his, so that their noses touched. The boy 
brushed away a tear and then jumped bravely on 
board. 

When we came on board, the steamer was 
crowded with natives, and they refused to leave. 
We had to drive them away energetically, and as 
their canoes were soon overcrowded, many of them 
jumped into the water with shouts and laughter, and 
swam several miles to the shore, floating happily in 
the blue sea, with their long hair waving after them 
like liquid gold. Thus I saw the last of the dream- 
island, bathed in the rays of the setting sun. My 
regret was shared by the boy, who stood, still 
ornamented with flowers and wreaths, at the stern of 



THE SANTA CRUZ ISLANDS 291 

the steamer, looking sadly back at his disappearing 
paradise. 

Our good times, too, were over. We had a dull, 
rainy night, a heavy, broadside swell, and as the 
steamer had not enough ballast, she rolled frightfully. 
In this nasty sea we were afraid she might turn 
turtle, as another steamer had done some months ago. 
The storm became such that we had to lie at anchor 
for five days, sheltered by the coast of Gaua. It was 
with real relief that I left the Southern Cross at 
Port Vila ; sorry as I was to leave my friends on 
board, I did not envy them the long voyage to New 
Zealand. 

Two days later I took the mail steamer for 
Sydney. Although tired enough, and glad to return 
to the comforts of civilization, I felt real regret at 
leaving the places where I had spent so many 
delightful hours, and where I had met with so much 
kindness on all sides. 



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